Some analysts are saying U.S. and Iranian posturing in advance of resumed talks could make it harder to find common ground, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The Obama administration on Thursday unveiled punitive steps against entities found to have circumvented U.S. penalties targeting Iran's missile and atomic efforts. The Middle Eastern nation promptly pledged retaliation to Washington's move, which came as Tehran and six world powers prepared to start new negotiations over a potential long-term resolution to global fears that Iranian atomic efforts are aimed at developing an arms capacity.
"This is yet another instance of the lack of the U.S. government's good faith on the eve of the second round of negotiations and is an indication that the U.S. wants to impose a negative atmosphere," said Alireza Miryousefi, a spokesman for Iran's mission to the United Nations. "This action will not only fail, but also will face Iranian reciprocal answer."
A number of experts said Iranian and U.S. positioning could complicate the search for an agreement in the scheduled talks, which are slated to start on Feb. 18. Under a six-month interim deal that took effect last month, Iran is restricting certain elements of its nuclear program in exchange for limited relief from international sanctions.
"Iran wants the sanctions [fully] dismantled, and the U.S. Congress wants much of Iran's nuclear program dismantled," said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. "Both sides are likely to enter the first round of talks with hardened positions."
However, Washington paired its latest punitive actions with what the Associated Press described as a possible trust-boosting measure: a suspension of up to 180 days on U.S. steps targeting a government-run Iranian media organization. A high-level Obama insider on Thursday said the decision would remove the threat of U.S. penalties against foreign firms that provide communication services to Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting.