Raisi and JCPOA: Lifting sanctions is top priority

August 3, 2021 - 21:44

TEHRAN — After being endorsed by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution as president on Tuesday, Ebrahim Raisi said he “will certainly seek to lift the sanctions” on Iran.

The statement comes amid a report that European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Enrique Mora is on his way to Iran to participate in the inauguration ceremony of Raisi on Thursday.

“We will certainly seek to lift the oppressive sanctions, but we will certainly not condition the people’s livelihood, and we will not tie it to the will of foreigners. I thank all the government officials of the twelfth government, but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done by the incoming administration. We have identified an immediate and short-term transformation plan to address the issues ahead. We will deal with them quickly,” Raisi said in his endorsement ceremony in the presence of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution and several high-ranking officials. 

These remarks caught the attention of several foreign media outlets and analysts as on Monday night it was reported that the EU is sending Iran talks coordinator Mora to attend the Raisi inauguration on Thursday.

Since April, Iran and the six major powers have been negotiating to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement. Iranian and Western officials have said that there is still a significant gap. The sixth round of indirect talks between Tehran and Washington in Vienna was suspended on June 20, and the two sides have not yet announced when they will resume.

The visit comes amid a halt in the nuclear talks. Since the talks stopped more than 40 days ago, no date has been set to reconvene. An EU spokeswoman confirms that's part of the point of the trip. 

Of course, halt in talks was natural because there was a change of government in Iran. 

In a tweet on July 17, Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s top nuclear negotiator in the Rouhani administration, said, “We're in a transition period as a democratic transfer of power is underway in our capital. #Vienna_talks must thus obviously await our new administration. This is what every democracy demands.”

Josep Borrell, the EU foreign policy chief, has said it is important to restart talks with the new administration in Tehran to revive the nuclear deal. 

"It is crucial to engage diplomatically with the new administration and pass directly important messages. As coordinator of the JCPOA," Wall Street Journal quoted Borrell as saying.

"Key priority is to resume negotiations in Vienna and facilitate the way back to full JCPOA implementation,” Borrell said.

While there are expectations a day may be set to resume the talks after Raisi officially starts his work as president, remarks by Iran and the U.S. over the past weeks suggest the two countries’ demands are at odds, and both may need to make significant compromises for the talks to lead to an agreement.

With the support of the electorate and the duties on his shoulders, the EU’s decision to send Mora to Tehran shows the willingness of the P4+1 to resume the negotiations. 

On July 27, Raisi called on parliament for “cooperation” to increase Iranians’ hope about the future. 

“I am very hopeful for the country's future and confident that it is possible to overcome difficulties and limitations,” he said in a statement issued by his office.

Iran’s economic woes, exacerbated by the U.S. sanctions, will be the new president’s top challenge, according to Clement Therme, a researcher at the European University Institute in Italy.

“His main objective will be to improve the economic situation by reinforcing the Islamic republic’s economic relations with neighboring countries,” and others such as Russia and China, Therme told AFP.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear accord in May 2018. His administration returned sanctions lifted under the agreement and added new ones under the “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.

Iran waited for a full year that the European signatories to the deal to compensate Iran for the sanctions. However, seeing no action on the part of Europe Tehran started to gradually remove bans on its nuclear commitments.

Trump's successor Joe Biden has signaled his readiness to return to the deal and engaged in negotiations with Iran alongside formal talks with the accord's remaining parties — Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia, yet, what has been projected so far does not clearly indicate that the U.S. is entirely ready to make a difficult political decision. 

During his first presser after winning the June presidential election, Raisi outlined his foreign policy priorities, saying his foreign policy does not begin with the nuclear deal and does not end with the deal.

“The foreign policy of our administration will not start from the JCPOA nor will it be restricted to the JCPOA,” Raisi said in a first sign that he will boost Iran’s relations with all major countries around the world.

If Biden wants to interact with Iran, he should change his tact. Joe needs to prioritize his goals. 

In an interview with the Financial Times published on Tuesday, Iranian Ambassador to London Mohsen Baharvand said that the nuclear talks had made “very good progress”.

But he added three key requests by Iran: for a guarantee that the U.S. could not unilaterally abandon the deal in the future; for sanctions to be lifted; and for the talks to not be linked to Iran’s missile program or its regional policies.

While the agreement seems so close, it can slip away from Biden’s hands.


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