That there are indirect talks between the US and Iran in Doha today is a positive development in the diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute over how the US can rejoin the JCPOA as a participant, and Iran can return to its commitments. That said, it doesn’t appear as though there is any substantive change in either country’s position and/or demands. Up until now the US has maintained—according to statements and media reports—that a deal is on the table and it is up to Iran to accept it. Iran maintains that the deal falls short in a few areas, one of which is which sanctions—JCPOA and nuclear related and otherwise—need to be lifted and what guarantees or assurances can be given to Iran that it will enjoy the benefits of the deal by restricting its nuclear program.
Unless both the US and Iran have softened their positions, it is difficult to imagine that a deal will result in the next 48 hours. This round in Doha, however, could potentially give negotiators from both sides an idea of where comprises could be made, and after returning to capitals for internal consultation and discussions, another round might be possible. It does seem as though the EU and the US want to give diplomacy one last chance for success, and Iran has always maintained it is keen on a diplomatic solution, but the window—according to the western countries—for making a deal is very short, so unless there is forward movement after this round and another round is quickly scheduled, we could be seeing the clock run out on a revival of the JCPOA.
It goes without saying that a direct negotiation between Iran and the US, rather than through intermediaries, would in my opinion be helpful and probably more likely to result in success. Standing on ceremony (Iran’s insistence that it will not negotiate directly with the US because of the US’ illegal withdrawal and subsequent illegal levying of sanctions) doesn’t do Iran any real favors. Understandably, though, there are political considerations in Iran just as political considerations in the US prevent the Biden administration from making certain concessions.