In mid-June, a curious number of articles in Western media parroted the idea that the so-called “Iran deal” being negotiated in Vienna is “close” to being completed. The EU, in particular, was upbeat about the apparent progress. But upon closer scrutiny, the astute analyst can read the statements clearly and see what words are most relevant.

By joining up the dots, one can also recognize how big media is in the pockets of big business and government – and not at all interested in truth as a raw commodity. Interestingly, the staunchly pro-EU British newspaper, The Guardian, hedged its bets on the talks by cleverly using the word “roadmap when referring to a deal being close.

The Iran deal being negotiated in Vienna now has never looked more like a parody and a cheap stage performance for both sides to tick the boxes, keep diplomatic relations strong, and to prepare a media campaign for an eventual defeat and a much more truculent relationship between the West and Tehran.

The latter was always a foregone conclusion when Iran’s Supreme Leader arranged for a hardliner like Ebrahim Raisi to become President. How does the Biden administration shake hands and sign a deal with someone who comes with such a shocking record of death, torture, and mass murders? And then there is the matter of the individual himself being on the US sanctions list. A tad complicated.

And even if the deal is close to being finalized, or could be, are we to believe that the negotiators in Vienna working on behalf of a new government in Tehran, really have the authority to call the shots on any new agreement?

The truth is more complicated but is buried in events that have been taking place for months, which Western media has mainly skirted around.

Most journalists have noted that there has been a confident new swagger about Iran since the Vienna talks started.

Most journalists have noted that there has been a confident new swagger about Iran since the Vienna talks started. Almost as though Tehran felt it was negotiating from a point of strength and the US from a weaker one.

When the Americans put a new demand on the table, the Iranians countered immediately, upping the stakes to demand almost impossible concessions. It has led to some commentators, such as this author, to wonder whether there is really a genuine negotiation going on, or a sham.

Trump’s move in 2018 to pull the US out of the deal with Iran – called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – has no doubt been responsible for not only a new, hardline Iranian President but also a parallel political dimension that comes with it. Iranians who once believed in the idea that they could be part of the West, now believe this is folly and that instead they should support a new, tougher anti-West regime.

It was, in fact, a deft move by the Supreme Leader to bring in Raisi at this juncture. The talks are going to get much tougher and harder to sustain now. The one critical factor – secondary sanctions – will likely be the new headache for Joe Biden, as he is forced into a position where he has to act, unlike other key foreign policy decisions which didn’t involve him doing much, such as Afghanistan or Syria. Biden will soon have to face a stark reality that Iran is not interested in genuine negotiations, because in reality, it has found a way around the US-imposed sanctions.

China Iran Vienna talks

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, right, and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, pose for photos, in Tehran, Iran, March 27, 2021. Iran and China signed a 25-year strategic cooperation agreement addressing economic issues amid crippling US sanctions on Iran. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

[From a ‘Reformist’ President to a ‘Hardliner’: What Does Raisi Mean for Iran?]

[Iranian Hardliners Weaponize US Officials’ Memoirs Against Rivals]

[Joe Biden’s First Foreign Policy Failure – Iran – Might Haunt Him]

While it is true that Iran has lost a lot of money by not being able to sell oil to EU countries, secondary sanctions imposed on China, South Korea, India, Japan, and Turkey were always going to be harder to keep in line. Hence, this author has always argued that Iran has probably been finding ways to sell oil to these countries under the radar of the US, but now there seems to be less of an incentive to even hide such deals.

It was of course inevitable that China would offer a deal to Iran.

It was of course inevitable that China would offer a deal to Iran. Other “rogue” states which have been sidelined by Biden, like Turkey, will also probably follow the same course as it makes sense to keep good relations with Iran.

But it is China which has made a fool out of Biden and the Iran deal. Recent reports are detailing how, since March of this year, the Chinese have been buying almost a million barrels of oil a day from Tehran in direct defiance of the US secondary sanctions imposed by Trump.

And it is the fact that these secondary sanctions are not holding out, which gives Iran the leverage to play this game with the US in Vienna. For a reworked Iran deal to make sense to its new hardliner President and the political hue and cry which he serenades, it has to be unrealistically packed with so many benefits that the people of Iran will see the sense of giving the West a shot again.

Biden’s people have known about illicit oil deals with China and Venezuela, and perhaps it will be China who resells oil to other countries around the world; or Turkey will be a big reseller just as it was with ISIS oil in 2015, which eventually ended up in Israel.

Oddly, this subject is barely being touched upon by US journalists when, in reality, it’s the only thing that matters. If Iran has made a mockery of the Trump withdrawal, then the pressure on Biden now is apocalyptic. Indeed, if the talks lose their momentum, it will force him to submit to the Republicans who will be lining up to ridicule his “soft power” in the Middle East while Iran rebuilds its economy slowly but steadily, and fewer and fewer countries around the world continue to see it through such a maligned prism as Trump and Israel would have hoped.

The upbeat reports about a deal being “close” are exaggerated and serve a particular purpose to appease US media outlets.

Therefore, the upbeat reports about a deal being “close” are exaggerated and serve a particular purpose to appease US media outlets which are ready to use Iran as a rod for Biden’s back. If we look very closely at the wording, it is obvious that “essential issues” that are still “under negotiations,” is a coded message from Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, which is what we should be acknowledging.

So, even if a phalanx of cheap suits from Biden’s camp come out and announce a deal in the coming weeks, they will still be firing both bullets into their own feet.  Agreeing to harsher terms under Raisi and accepting that Biden doesn’t have the requisite power to stop the secondary sanctions from crumbling will be two key points which Biden’s foes will seize. It’s all about leverage. And Biden doesn’t have much.

The reality of the Vienna talks is harder to swallow. These are actually merely talks. And we should get used to them being around for quite some time, perhaps even years. It’s hard to say the same about Biden, if his “America is back” policy in the Middle East becomes a laughingstock, as what appears to be the case with the Iranians.