Ayatollah Khamenei crafts Iran's JCPOA strategy

February 7, 2021 - 23:30

TEHRAN - In a carefully worded address on Sunday, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei outlined how Iran would accept a U.S. return to the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major world powers.

He said the United States must lift all the sanctions it imposed on Iran and then rejoin the nuclear deal, something that the new U.S. administration assiduously tries to avoid, though U.S. President Joe Biden had vowed to rejoin the deal during his election campaign.

Before and after the U.S. presidential election, Biden ambiguously said he is willing to rejoin the nuclear deal –officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) - but he refrained from laying out any plan to do so. The new U.S. president has been tight-lipped about the JCPOA ever since he won the presidential election in November. He has seemingly tasked his national security and foreign policy team to make calibrated remarks on Iran and the JCPOA. This was pretty much obvious in the past few weeks since Biden moved into the White House. Biden strikingly refrained from alluding to the JCPOA in the recent speech he delivered at the State Department.
Meanwhile, Biden officials deliberately sought to set the stage for a protracted process of reviving the JCPOA. First of all, they dampened widespread expectations for a quick JCPOA revival by saying that the U.S. was still “a long way” from getting to the point of reviving the nuclear deal. Then, they said the ball is in Iran’s court and that Iran must make the first move toward resuscitating the JCPOA by reversing the nuclear measures it adopted in response to the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal in the first place. In other words, Iran must reverse all the nuclear steps it has taken over the past year and then get gradual sanctions relief in a phased-out process.

In his first comments on Iran as the chief U.S. diplomat, Antony Blinken made it clear that Washington expects Iran to come back into what he called full compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA first. If Iran returns to the deal, Blinken said, the U.S. would “assess whether it was meeting its obligations” before rejoining the JCPOA. And even if Iran goes along with this process, the U.S. will still use the JCPOA as a starting point to reach a “longer and stronger agreement” that would deal with other “deeply problematic” issues.

Bloomberg has recently unveiled what the Biden administration would give Iran if it agreed to such a process: some conditional sanctions relief related to humanitarian trade that the U.S. must have not restricted in the first place. Bloomberg reported that the U.S. is weighing options to ease economic pressure on Iran without lifting key sanctions – including on oil sales- as a step toward reviving the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by former President Donald Trump.

Citing four people familiar with the Biden administration’s thinking, Bloomberg said the options U.S. officials are debating include providing backing for International Monetary Fund lending to Tehran for coronavirus relief and easing up on sanctions that have stymied international coronavirus aid from getting into Iran. Such moves could be justified on humanitarian grounds.

The people said Biden could also sign an executive order reversing Trump’s decision to quit the multinational deal, but issuing sanctions waivers to allow Iran to sell oil on the international market isn’t currently under serious consideration.

The U.S. officials may have even wasted time drawing up plans to cajole Iran into accepting a step-by-step process to revive the JCPOA. But Iran is not going to accept this process. Ayatollah Khamenei made it crystal clear that Iran will reject any offer to revive the deal without giving Iran a verifiable sanctions relief.

“If they want Iran to return to its JCPOA commitments, the U.S. should lift all sanctions in action. After they have done this, we will check if the sanctions have truly been lifted. Once this is done, we will resume our JCPOA commitments,” the Leader wisely said in remarks delivered at a meeting with a number of commanders and staff of the Air Force of the Islamic Republic of Iran Army on Sunday.

He added, “On the issue of sanctions, first of all, no one in the Islamic Republic believes what those incompetent prattlers say – whether they are in European countries or in the U.S. Secondly if we want to be reasonable, the U.S. and the three European countries do not have the right to set terms and conditions because they have violated all of their JCOPA commitments. They have not honored any of their commitments.”

Ayatollah Khamenei described the imposition of unprecedented sanctions on Iran as another miscalculation aimed at bringing Iran to its knees.

“One of those ‘first-rate fools’ said that they would celebrate New Year 2019 in Tehran. That person has been sent to history’s trash can, and his boss has also been kicked out of the White House with disgrace, but the Islamic Republic is still standing strong on its feet, with God’s grace,” the Leader said in an apparent reference to former U.S. National Security Advisor Johan Bolton and his former boss Donald Trump.

The remarks were another reiteration from Iran that the U.S. should take the first step toward reviving the JCPOA and it should not use the deal to pursue other issues that are not included in it. Besides, they were also a reminder of what awaits the U.S. if it failed to take the first step. Washington has a period of about three weeks to salvage the JCPOA. Iran will take a further step away from the deal on February 21 when the Iranian government will be obligated to implement a nuclear law passed by the Parliament in early November. The law compels the government to reduce international inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has already said the government is determined to implement the deal. Therefore, now it’s up to the U.S. to change tack and save the day.

Leave a Comment