FM Zarif outlines give-and-take approach to revive JCPOA

November 18, 2020 - 22:4

TEHRAN – Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has introduced a give-and-take approach to help ease tensions over a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, conditioning Iran’s return to the deal on the U.S. compliance with it.

“The U.S. is definitely in no position to set out conditions for us. As a UN member and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the U.S. is duty-bound to implement Resolution 2231. If the resolution is implemented, the sanctions will be removed. Iran has announced that in that case, it will resume honoring its commitments under the JCPOA,” the chief Iranian diplomat said. “Thus, first, if the U.S. meets its commitments under Resolution 2231, we will fulfill ours under the JCPOA. Second, if the U.S. seeks to join the JCPOA again, we are ready to negotiate the terms and conditions of Washington’s membership in the deal.”

Zarif made the remarks in an interview with the official Iran newspaper that was published on Wednesday.

He also said that the U.S. has no other option but to return to a nuclear deal that Trump withdrew the U.S. from on May 8, 2018. The deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), put limits on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the termination of sanctions. Following Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, Iran initiated a process of gradually reducing its commitments under the nuclear deal in five steps. Now, Iran says if the U.S. returns to the deal, it will also reverse these five steps and resume full compliance with the JCPOA.

“The U.S. has no other option but to return to the JCPOA and fulfill its commitments, as Iranians’ resistance doomed the “maximum pressure” campaign to failure. Although we have suffered costs in this period, our people told the U.S. that the continuation of such a policy will earn it nothing,” Zarif noted.

According to the foreign minister, Trump’s policy toward Iran – maximum pressure – has ended in failure. He also pointed out that the U.S. is obliged, under Article 25 of the UN Charter, to return to the JCPOA and lift U.S. sanctions on Iran.

“First, Trump’s policy of withdrawal from the JCPOA and “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran resulted in a failure. This does not mean that we benefited from the policy. It implies that Trump failed to achieve the desired result. We faced great pressure as a consequence of such a strategy. Although we defeated the U.S., the domestic economy suffered losses under Trump’s sanctions. However, the reality is that the U.S. policy ended in a failure and its continuation will be doomed to more failures,” the foreign minister said.

He added, “Second, the U.S. has two positions. It is a member of both the JCPOA and the United Nations. Although Trump pulled the U.S. out of the JCPOA, he did not withdraw the country from the UN. Whether under Biden or Trump, the U.S. must remain committed to Article 25 of the UN Charter, mandating the member states to accept and carry out the decisions of the UN Security Council. Thus, as a UN member and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the U.S. cannot say the Resolution 2231 — a July 20, 2015 resolution endorsing the JCPOA on the peaceful nuclear program of Iran — is illegal. By pulling Washington out of the JCPOA, Trump solely failed to benefit from the deal. This was the mistake Trump and his associates made. If Biden seeks to return to the JCPOA, he will have to fulfill U.S. commitments under the deal and lift the sanctions.”

Over the past four years, the Trump administration has imposed sweeping sanctions on Iran and sought to build what some pro-Trump experts called a “wall of sanctions,” a move that aims to perpetuate sanctions on Iran and prevent a successor administration from lifting the sanctions. To this end, Trump’s administration changed the logic of sanctions and, in some cases, reimposed previously imposed sanctions under non-nuclear-related authorities, including the U.S.’s counterterrorism sanctions authority.

The Trump administration is preparing a “flood” of sanctions against Iran within the strategy of building the wall of sanctions. Axios news agency, which first reported the news of the flood, quoted Israeli sources as saying that such a “flood” of sanctions will increase pressure on the Iranians and make it harder for the Biden administration to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

Analysts warned about these sanctions and the “trap” that the Trump administration is seeking to set for the Biden administration.

“These sanctions are not designed to change Iran’s behavior or to deter it from conduct anathema to U.S. interests. Instead, the whole point of the sanctions is to set a trap for the Biden administration,” Tyler Cullis, an expert on the practice of U.S. economic sanctions, wrote in an analysis published by the Responsible Statecraft publication.

But Zarif implied that this so-called wall of sanctions is pure fantasy. He said Biden can lift the Trump administration with three executive orders.

Responding to claims that Biden would not be able to lift the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, Zarif asserted, “If Mr. Biden becomes president of the United States and moves into the White House, he can repeal all of them with three executive orders. It is just a rumor that the next U.S. president will not be able to lift some of the U.S. JCPOA-related sanctions.”

He added, “The United States cannot use domestic law to justify its non-fulfillment of its international obligations. No country in the world can use domestic tools to not fulfill its international obligations.”

The chief Iranian diplomat also said that Trump’s foreign policy has been among the most unsuccessful ones in the history of the U.S., underlining that the U.S. behavior and bullying have forced other countries into acquiescing to its demands.

But under Biden, Zarif noted, the U.S. would adopt less unilateral approaches although Washington has never completely abandoned such policies. Besides, during Biden’s term in office, the U.S. and Europe would have a more rational relationship with each other, Zarif remarked.

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