Zarif utterly rejects JCPOA renegotiation

March 5, 2021 - 13:49

TEHRAN – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Thursday once again strongly ruled out any renegotiation of the 2015 nuclear deal and called for stopping “posturing”.

According to the nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran agreed to put limit on its nuclear activities in exchange for termination of economic and financial sanctions.

The agreement was struck between Iran, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the U.S, Russia, China, Britain, France) and Germany.

“JCPOA cannot be renegotiated—period,” Zarif said on his Twitter account.

Zarif was responding to Wendy Sherman, U.S. President Joe Biden’s nominee for deputy secretary of state, who said earlier that the facts on the ground have changed since the nuclear agreement was signed, calling for a “stronger” deal.

“I would note that 2021 is not 2015, when the deal was agreed, nor 2016, when it was implemented,” Sherman said during a Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday, according to Press TV. “The facts on the ground have changed, the geopolitics of the region have changed, and the way forward must similarly change.”

Iran’s chief diplomat said if 2021 is not 2015, the situation has also changed greatly since 1945 and it is time to abolish the veto right which the U.S. has misused it repeatedly since that time.

“If 2021 is not 2015, it's not 1945 either. So let's change UN Charter & remove the veto—so often abused by US,” Zarif asserted.

At the end of World War II in 1945, the victors, namely the U.S., Russia, France, Britain and China, gave themselves the veto right when the United Nations was established.

Zarif added “let’s stop posturing” and “get down” to implementing the multilateral agreement.

The 2015 nuclear deal, endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, was abandoned unilaterally in May 2018 by the Trump administration in pursuit of a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. The “maximum pressure” was aimed to force Iran to renegotiate what the Trump team called a “better deal”.  However, Iran adopted “maximum resistance” in the face of maximum pressure.

The current officials in the Biden administration have acknowledged that the “maximum pressure” campaign was a failure.

The nuclear deal between Iran and the West started in 2003 and lasted for more than a decade without producing any result. However, intensive nuclear talks were resumed in 2013 which produced the JCPOA.

Zarif said posturing produced nothing from 2003-2012.

Sherman, who had helped negotiate the JCPOA, suggested that Biden had deserted his presidential campaign promise to re-enter the deal, saying the US president’s goal was “a deal that is longer and stronger.”

Tehran has repeatedly ruled out any renegotiation of the deal, saying the only way to save the agreement is for the U.S. to lift its sanctions on Iran and rejoin the accord.

Sherman also suggested that Washington should keep some of the illegal sanctions on Iran, even if the U.S. returns to the JCPOA – a move Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned about.

Earlier on Thursday, President Hassan Rouhani said the United States has violated the JCPOA and it is Washington that should take practical steps to rejoin the deal and lift all sanctions on Tehran.

The Trump administration not only returned the sanctions lifted under the JCPOA, it also added new ones, including a total ban on Iran’s oil sale. It also refused to loosen the illegal sanctions amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

Iran has called the sanctions “economic terrorism”. In March 2020, Zarif said, “The world can no longer be silent as U.S. Economic Terrorism is supplanted by its Medical Terrorism."  

“The U.S., as the one who violated the deal, shall lift all sanctions and take practical steps in order to be able to return to the JCPOA,” Rouhani said during an address to the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) summit, which was held through videoconference.

Progressive organizations are pressing the Biden administration to swiftly rejoin the Obama-era nuclear deal, warning that coming back into the pact will be more difficult as time goes on.

In a letter to the White House on Wednesday, the 32 progressive groups lambasted the Trump administration, which pulled out of the JCPOA in favor of “maximum pressure” strategy that imposed harsh sanctions on Iran, The Hill reported.

The groups said that approach must be quickly reversed to come to a new arrangement with Iran.

“The longer the elements of 'maximum pressure' remain in effect, the more it will continue to embolden hardliners and make U.S.-Iran diplomacy more difficult,” they wrote.

Biden campaigned on joining the nuclear deal. His administration recently said it was open to restarting discussions with European countries and Iran to begin the process of rejoining the agreement.

The president has maintained that the U.S. will only return to the table if Iran first brings its nuclear enrichment levels back down to levels when the JCPOA went into force in January 2016. However, the groups said that stance could hinder negotiations.

“We have been heartened by various developments over recent weeks, including the U.S. accepting an invitation from Europe to join talks on the future of the deal, the acknowledgement that Trump’s attempted snapback of UN Security Council Resolutions failed, and the lifting of travel restrictions on key Iranian officials,” they wrote.

“However, we are concerned about the time that is being taken in the lead-up to formal negotiations and by recent statements that could be construed to indicate that Iran must take the first steps to meet its JCPOA obligations before the United States takes its own steps," they continued. "We support your policy of ‘compliance for compliance,’ but the fact of the matter is that the United States was the first to violate the deal. It is therefore reasonable to expect the United States to at the very least take concurrent steps with Iran to rejoin it.”

Biden is staring down a dwindling timeline to rejoin the deal amid an array of developments in Iran.

Tehran confirmed in January that it intends to enrich its uranium to up to 20 percent at its Fordow facility. And elections in Iran in June are rapidly approaching.

The letter from the progressive groups comes amid burgeoning frustration among liberals with Biden’s foreign policy.

PA/PA

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