Biden priority is dealing with Iran's nuclear program: Sullivan

January 30, 2021 - 15:55

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Friday that a critical early priority for the Biden administration is to resolve the nuclear stalemate with Iran, saying Tehran is getting closer to having enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon

"From our perspective, a critical early priority has to be to deal with what is an escalating nuclear crisis as they (Iran) move closer and closer to having enough fissile material for a weapon," Sullivan told an online program sponsored by the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Iran has been repeatedly saying that it has no intention to build nuclear weapons. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Leader of the Islamic Revolution, has declared production, stockpiling and use of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), including nuclear arms, as haram (religiously banned).

In May 2019, exactly one year after Donald Trump officially withdrew the U.S. from the JCPOA and imposed the harshest ever sanctions on Iran in line with his “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran, the Islamic Republic announced that its “strategic patience” is over and started to gradually remove cap its nuclear activities at bi-monthly intervals. At the time Iran announced if the JCPOA parties honor their commitments, Iran will immediately reverse its decisions.

Under the JCPOA, Iran is tasked to put limits on its nuclear program in exchange for termination of economic and financial sanctions.

Seeing no action on the part of the JCPOA parties after five years, in December the Iranian Parliament adopted legislation, officially called “Strategic Action to Lift Sanctions and Protect the Nation’s Rights”, according to which the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) is obliged to speed up nuclear activities if U.S. sanctions are not lifted within two months.

The nuclear law 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.

In line with the parliamentary approval, on January 4 the AEOI started to increase uranium enrichment to 20% at the Fordow nuclear plant.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif stated at the time that the resumption of 20% uranium enrichment was done in line with the nuclear law.

“We resumed 20% enrichment, as legislated by our Parliament. IAEA has been duly notified. Our remedial action conforms fully with Para 36 of JCPOA, after years of non-compliance by several other JCPOA participants. Our measures are fully reversible upon FULL compliance by ALL,” Zarif tweeted hours after Iran resumed the 20% uranium enrichment.
AEOI spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi announced on Thursday that its organization has produced over 17 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium since January 4.

Iran's highest-ranking diplomat to the UN has warned the Biden administration it "must act quickly" to return to the nuclear deal abandoned by Trump "because the window is closing" for Washington to lift economic sanctions before Tehran's deadline.

"We have said time and again that if the U.S. decides to go back to its international commitments and lift all the illegal sanctions against Iran, we will go back to the full implementation of JCPOA, which will benefit all sides," said Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, in exclusive remarks to USA Today published on Thursday. 

Writing in the New York Times on January 27, Takht-Ravanchi also said, “The window is closing. If the new (U.S.) administration does not meet its obligations and remove sanctions in short order, it will destroy the possibility for engagement within the nuclear agreement.”

He added, “A full and honest lifting of the sanctions will create a new atmosphere that will help ease tensions in the region and beyond.”

Speaking at a joint press conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Istanbul on Friday, Zarif said Iran’s nuclear activities do not mean that Tehran is seeking to build an atomic bomb.

He once again stressed that Iran expects the U.S. to return to the JCPOA before Tehran halts its increased enrichment activities and returns to compliance with the accord.

“The moment the United States fulfills its commitments, we would be prepared to fulfill ours,” Zarif told reporters in Istanbul.

“The United States unilaterally withdrew from this comprehensive course of action,” Zarif told journalists. “It is the duty of the United States to return to this agreement and to fulfill its obligations.”

Again, Zarif announced on Friday that Iran will not accept demands by the United States that it reverses acceleration of its nuclear program before Washington lifts sanctions.

The demand “is not practical and will not happen”, Zarif said.

“If the United States fulfils its obligations, we will fulfill our obligations in full,” Zarif had said earlier.

On Friday, Sullivan did not say that Iran should first reduce its nuclear work before the U.S. rejoins the agreement.

On Wednesday U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Iran should act first to reduce its nuclear activities.

“Iran is out of compliance on a number of fronts,” Blinken told a news conference in Washington, DC.
 
“And it would take some time, should it make the decision to do so, for it to come back into compliance and time for us then to assess whether it was meeting its obligations,” Blinken told a news conference.

Zarif quickly responded on Twitter, saying Iran had “abided by the JCPOA” and had only taken “foreseen remedial measures”.

“Reality check for @SecBlinken: The US violated (the) JCPOA,” Zarif tweeted.

Iran has said that its move are in accordance to paragraph 36 of the JCPOA. 

(Paragraph 36 provided a mechanism to resolve disputes and allows one side, under certain circumstances, to stop complying with the deal if the other side is out of compliance.)

Mahmoud Vaezi, the Iranian president's chief of staff, said on Friday that Iran has never withdrawn from the nuclear deal so that it would be the first to return to its obligations.

“We held negotiations once and the issue of the JCPOA has been closed. Our stance on the JCPOA was clear and we have maintained our past approach,” Vaezi told IRNA when asked about Blinken’s remarks that Iran should first return to the deal. 
 
Vaezi stressed, “As President Rouhani has repeatedly said, only when the U.S. returns to its obligations, Iran will fulfill its commitments.”


PA/PA
 

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