53 Democratic leaders tell Biden to lift Iran sanctions

May 11, 2021 - 21:26

TEHRAN - Fifty-three Democratic Party leaders have sent a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden urging him to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

They said Monday that they have “strong support” for an initiative in the Biden administration to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which former President Donald Trump quit.

“Lifting Trump’s bad-faith sanctions - which he explicitly imposed on Iran in order to make a return to the JCPOA next-to-impossible - should not be treated as a concession to Iran, but rather as an effort to restore U.S. credibility and enhance American security,” they wrote, according to The Hill.

The U.S. return to the deal, backed by other world’s major power, is yet to materialize in the Biden Democratic administration.

The Democrats argued that Trump’s withdrawal “made America less safe,” saying, “America’s credibility has been severely damaged and its national security damaged.”

“The Obama administration did not only prove that diplomacy with Iran works, but it also proved that no other policy tool advances American security more effectively than diplomacy,” they wrote to Biden. “We urge you to continue on this proven path of success.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D) and Democratic Ohio congressional candidate Nina Turner were among the most notable signatories.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal in 2018 and started imposing the harshest sanction on Iran in history.

Trump did this despite the fact that the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency was fully cooperating with the terms of the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA. 

In fact, the Trump administration violated international law as the JCPOA is endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

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

A leading Indian academic says Trump’s exit from the JCPOA violated all legal, strategic and diplomatic norms.

“The U.S. President Donald Trump's decision in 2018 to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal was extremely foolish morally, legally, strategically, and diplomatically,” Ashok Swain tells the Tehran Times.

‘Nuclear talks moving to crucial stage’

The top European Union diplomat said on Monday that negotiations in Vienna between world powers and Iran are moving into a crucial stage and the next few weeks will be critical to saving 2015 nuclear deal.

U.S. officials returned to Vienna last week for a fourth round of indirect talks with Iran on how to resume compliance with the deal.

"I am optimistic, there is a window of opportunity that will stay open for a couple of weeks, (until) end of the month," EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, who is chairing the talks, told a news conference in Brussels.

"But a lot of work is needed, time is limited and I hope that the negotiations will enter into a phase of nonstop (talks) in Vienna," he said following a meeting of EU foreign ministers.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described the negotiations as tough and laborious, but added that all participants were conducting them in a constructive atmosphere.

"However, time is running out. We aim for the full restoration of the Iran nuclear deal as this is the only way to guarantee that Iran will not be able to come into possession of nuclear weapons," Maas said in Brussels.

IAEA says technical talks with Iran going on in parallel to Vienna negotiations
The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Monday that talks on the technical aspects of Iran's peaceful nuclear program are going on in the Austrian capital Vienna in parallel to political talks on the revival of the landmark nuclear deal clinched by Tehran and world powers in July 2015.

"We are in the midst of technical talks with Iran parallel to the ongoing political talks in the Austrian capital," Rafael Grossi told reporters on Monday.

Representatives of Iran and the other five signatories to the nuclear agreement -- Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China -- have been engaged in the Vienna process since early April with the purpose of finding ways to bring the United States back to the JCPOA and prepare the ground for its full implementation.

They wrapped up another round of talks in Vienna on Friday apparently without any breakthrough, with both sides agreeing to speed up the diplomatic process.

Besides re-imposing the anti-Iran sanctions lifted by the JCPOA, the U.S. targeted the Iranian nation with several sets of additional bans under new pretexts and labels.

Now, with Trump gone, Biden’s administration says it seeks to rejoin the deal, but it has so far refused to take meaningful action to regain Iran's trust and come back to compliance.

In excessive demand, the U.S. says Iran should first resume the nuclear commitments it has suspended in resorting to its legal retaliation rights defined in Article 26 of the agreement before Washington lifts the sanctions. Tehran has firmly rejected that demand, saying it is up to the US, as the party that abandoned the JCPOA, to take the first back toward the deal by lifting all the anti-Iran sanctions practically and verifiably.

In his Monday remarks, Grossi pointed to a three-month deadline given to the IAEA by Iran based on a temporary technical understanding reached between the two sides in February and said "patience" is required to achieve outcomes from the ongoing political talks in Vienna.

"But in the event that a political agreement is not reached before May 20, I will start direct talks with the Iranians to ensure that the inspections will be completed," the UN nuclear agency chief added, according to globalsecurity.org.

In February, Iran halted its voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol that allowed the IAEA to carry short-notice inspections at its nuclear sites.

Later in February, Iran and the IAEA reached a technical understanding under which Iran continued to keep the camera footage at its nuclear sites for up to three months in a goodwill gesture in support of diplomacy, waiting to see whether the other parties to the JCPOA can manage to bring the U.S. back into full compliance with the deal.

That deadline would come to an end on May 21, while the prospects of reaching an agreement to bring Washington into compliance with the JCPOA look uncertain.

Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi, who is the head of the Iranian delegation to the Vienna talks, told NHK on Friday that the Islamic Republic may consider extending the deal with the IAEA on inspections of its nuclear sites.

“Vienna negotiations taking time but constructive”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also said on Monday that time is of the essence in the Vienna talks but emphasized that despite lengthy negotiations, they are conducted in a good atmosphere.

"The negotiations are tough and laborious but all participants are conducting the talks in a constructive atmosphere," Maas said on the margins of a meeting with his European Union counterparts in Brussels.

"However, time is running out. We aim for the full restoration of the Iran nuclear deal," he added.

EU says Vienna talks on JCPOA revival moving to crucial stage

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell also on Monday expressed his optimism about the Vienna talks, saying the negotiations are moving into a crucial stage and the next few weeks will be critical to saving the nuclear deal.

"I am optimistic, there is a window of opportunity that will stay open for a couple of weeks, (until) end of the month," Borrell, whose deputy Enrique Mora is chairing the talks in Vienna, told a news conference.

"But a lot of work is needed, time is limited and I hope that the negotiations will enter in a phase of nonstop (talks) in Vienna," he added after a meeting of EU foreign ministers.


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