Leader urges the West to alter misperceptions about Iran’s view on U.S. return to JCPOA

January 8, 2021 - 12:22

TEHRAN – In a televised appearance on Friday, Leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei sought to dispel some misperceptions in some Western political circles about an alleged Iranian rush to get the United States to return to a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major world powers.

The nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has become a point of contention between Iran on one hand and the U.S. and its European allies on the other, especially after Joe Biden, a Democrat who campaigned on rejoining the Iran nuclear deal, won the U.S. presidential election in November.

The JCPOA has been teetering on the brink of a total collapse since U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from it on May 8, 2018, and imposed sweeping economic sanctions on Iran in an apparent bid to replace it with what Trump called a “better deal” with Iran, one that would include, among other things, extending the original deal’s sunset clauses, curbing Iran’s ballistic missile program and imposing limits on its influence in the West Asia region.

Ever since Trump has been calling for a meeting with Iran to secure such a deal but he never got what he wanted, and finally, he bequeathed Biden tense relations with Iran after he lost the November election. Biden has tried to soothe tensions with Iran by vaguely promising to return to the JCPOA once he is elected president.

“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 wrote in a September 13 op-ed for CNN.

Biden reaffirmed this position after winning the election, though he once again refused to say how he plans to rejoin the deal. Biden also raised some other thorny issues while addressing the need for the U.S. to rejoin the nuclear deal.

In a recent interview with The New York Times’ columnist Thomas Friedman, Biden said that he still stands by his views on the 2015 nuclear deal that were articulated in the mid-September op-ed, but a U.S. return to the deal would be “hard.”

Meanwhile, some pundits in the U.S. and Europe said that Biden should not rejoin the JCPOA and throw away “leverage” created by Trump’s sanctions on Iran. Some even called on Biden to bide his time on Iran and let the U.S. sanctions weaken Iran’s economy. The underlying basis of this claim is that sanctions are severely hurting Iran and that the country is in too much of a rush to get the sanctions lifted.

But during his Friday speech, Ayatollah Khamenei made it clear that it’s pure fantasy to think that Iran is in a rush to get the U.S. to return to the JCPOA.

“They raise this issue of whether America should return to the JCPOA or not. The Islamic Republic is in no rush and has no insistence on America’s return to the JCPOA. Instead, our logical demand is the lifting of sanctions and taking back the usurped right of the nation, a duty that should be performed by America and its European vassals,” the Leader noted.

The Leader’s remarks were a clear sign that Iran is not pinning hope on the U.S. return to the JCPOA. These remarks came at a time when some experts in the West call on the incoming Biden administration not to rush back to the JCPOA because they falsely believe that Iran is desperate to get a sanctions relief.

But the Leader made it crystal clear that this allegation is unfounded as he even described a possible U.S. return to the JCPOA as harmful. In fact, Ayatollah Khamenei said that the U.S. should lift its sanctions on Iran before it returns to the nuclear deal.

“If sanctions are lifted, America’s return to the JCPOA would be meaningful. Of course, the compensation issue is one of our demands, which will be pursued at a later time. But an American return to the JCPOA without lifting sanctions may even be harmful to the country,” the Leader pointed out.

Some Iranian officials believe that the Leader set the country on a clear path on Friday. Abolfazl Amouei, the spokesman for the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, called the Friday remarks of the Leader “strategic,” adding that these remarks paved the way of the country’s foreign policy.

“The main goal of the JCPOA today is to lift sanctions on Iran. The return of the United States to the JCPOA in the current situation is not an issue that we want to prioritize, but the first priority today is the lifting of sanctions,” Amouei told Tasnim on Friday.

The Leader also called for an “immediate and complete” lifting of U.S. sanctions while underlining that Iran is not in a hurry for the U.S. return to the JCPOA. These remarks were part of a strategy to protect the country from the effects of U.S. sanctions. To this end, the Leader said that Iranian authorities should work to run the country’s economy on the premise that U.S. sanctions would not be lifted.

“Of course, we have repeatedly emphasized that we must make plans for the economy assuming that the sanctions will not be lifted so that the country is well run and does not have problems with the coming and going of sanctions and with the actions of the enemy. And this is possible by relying on internal capacities and implementing resistance economy policies. Though, sanctions are gradually becoming ineffective,” Ayatollah Khamenei remarked.

Earlier in November, the Leader said that Iran needs to try the option of nullifying the sanctions rather than simply waiting for the enemy to lift them.

“There are two ways to tackle sanctions: 1) removing sanctions 2) nullifying and overcoming them. We tried the first option, removing sanctions, by negotiating for a few years, but to no use. The second option may have difficulties in the beginning but will have a favorable end,” the Leader pointed out at that time. “If succeed, through hard work and innovation, in overcoming the sanctions and the other side witnesses how sanctions were nullified, it will abandon sanctions gradually.”

In addition to nullifying sanctions, the Leader also pointed to Iran’s recent decision to raise the level of uranium enrichment to 20%, calling the decision “logical and wise.”

“Iran's Majlis (Parliament) and government decision to enrich uranium to 20% is totally logical and wise. When they don't abide by any of their JCPOA commitments, it's nonsensical for Iran to abide by all its commitments. If they return to it, so will we. Our logical demand is the lifting of sanctions,” the Leader stated.

On Monday, Iran announced that it resumed enriching uranium to up to 20% at the Fordow nuclear plant.

“A few minutes ago, the process of producing enriched uranium to 20% purity has begun. And the first product of UF6 enriched uranium will be produced in a few hours,” Ali Rabiei, the Iranian government spokesman, announced on Monday morning.

The spokesman also said that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has issued an order stipulating that the recent nuclear law passed by the Iranian Parliament should be implemented.

Iran started the 20% uranium enrichment in accordance with the nuclear law, which stipulates that the Iranian government should take certain nuclear measures such as raising the level of uranium enrichment to 20% and suspending the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in few months if the Western parties failed to honor their obligations under the JCPOA.

MS/PA

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