Biden reaffirms support for JCPOA, vows to engage Iran

December 2, 2020 - 22:36

TEHRAN – Joe Biden has said that he still stands by his views on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that were articulated in a mid-September op-ed, but a U.S. return to the deal would be “hard.”

In an interview with The New York Times’ columnist Thomas Friedman, Biden addressed a variety of domestic and foreign policy issues, including the Iran nuclear deal, which President Donald Trump quit on May 8, 2018.

Asked whether he still stands by his views on the Iran deal that he expressed in a September 13 op-ed for CNN, Biden answered, “It’s going to be hard, but yeah.”

This is the first statement by Biden on Iran since he was widely projected to win the U.S. presidential election in early November.  

Biden said in the op-ed that he will return to the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“I will offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations. With our allies, we will work to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal's provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern,” then-presidential candidate Biden said.

According to Friedman, the view of Biden and his national security team is that once the deal is restored by both sides, there will have to be, in very short order, a round of negotiations to seek to lengthen the duration of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program — originally 15 years — as well as to address Iran’s regional activities.

The columnist also said that the Biden team may involve Iran’s Arab neighbors, namely Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in follow-on negotiations on Iran's regional activities.

“Ideally, the Biden team would like to see that follow-on negotiation include not only the original signatories to the deal — Iran, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and the European Union — but also Iran’s Arab neighbors, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” wrote Friedman.

A few days ago, Friedman wrote a column urging a Biden administration to address Iran’s precision-guided missile before restoring the JCPOA. But this column seems to have failed to influence the Biden team. “But for now they insist that America’s overwhelming national interest is to get Iran’s nuclear program back under control and fully inspected,” Friedman admittedly said.

Biden himself expressed less enthusiasm about addressing Iran’s missiles. “Look, there’s a lot of talk about precision missiles and all range of other things that are destabilizing the region,” Biden noted, adding that “the best way to achieve getting some stability in the region” is to deal “with the nuclear program.”

If Iran gets a nuclear bomb, Biden claimed, it puts enormous pressure on the Saudis, Turkey, Egypt and others to get nuclear weapons themselves. “And the last goddamn thing we need in that part of the world is a buildup of nuclear capability.”

Then, Biden said, “In consultation with our allies and partners, we’re going to engage in negotiations and follow-on agreements to tighten and lengthen Iran’s nuclear constraints, as well as address the missile program.” The U.S. always has the option to snap back sanctions if need be, and Iran knows that, he added.

It’s worth noting that Iran has always said that it is not seeking to develop a nuclear bomb, and it even considers this kind of bomb religiously indecent.

SM/PA

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