Biden words aren’t enough on JCPOA

November 2, 2021 - 21:28

TEHRAN – As Iran and the West move closer to resuming the stalled Vienna nuclear talks, it becomes increasingly clear that Washington needs to unequivocally show its word would be respected in regard to its commitments under a revived nuclear deal with Iran.

After months of back-and-forth diplomacy, Iran finally set a broader date for the resumption of the Vienna talks. The Iranian foreign ministry has recently announced that the next round of nuclear talks between Iran and major world powers over how to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), will begin before the end of November. 

During his weekly press briefing on Monday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the exact date for resuming the talks would be announced this week, putting an end to media speculations over the reasons behind Iran’s procrastination. 

But differences between Iran and the United States are not limited to the starting date of the talks.  Over the last few days, another point of contention has come into focus between the two countries: ensuring that the U.S. won’t leave the JCPOA again. 

Of course, this demand is nothing new. Iran has asked during the past six rounds of talks that the U.S. provide guarantees it won’t renege on its commitments again. What’s new is U.S. President Joe Biden’s apparent effort to assure Iran that he will honor his signature. 

In a joint statement with the leaders of France, Germany, and the UK, President Biden said, “We welcome President Biden’s clearly demonstrated commitment to return the U.S. to full compliance with the JCPOA and to stay in full compliance, so long as Iran does the same.”

This was seen as a pledge by Biden to assure Iran that the U.S. won’t withdraw from the JCPOA again. But Biden’s opponents at home nullified Biden’s messaging even before Iran took note of it. 

Senator Ted Cruz, a staunch JCPOA critic, rejected any Biden move to protect the JCPOA beyond his tenure. The senator said Biden had no authority to make commitments with respect to the JCPOA. 

“Nope. Joe Biden has ZERO constitutional authority to make that commitment,” Cruz said on Twitter. “Unless any deal w/ Iran is ratified by the Senate as a treaty—which Biden knows will NOT happen—it is a 100% certainty that any future Republican president will tear it up. Again.”

Khatibzadeh responded to Senator Cruz by saying that Iran won’t take Biden’s words seriously unless he offers “‘objective guarantees” in regard to the continuation of the U.S. participation in the JCPOA. 

Cruz and other Iran hawks’ statements on the JCPOA will only make it harder for the Biden administration to revive the tattered 2015 nuclear deal. Because Iran will by no means let what former U.S. President Donald Trump did to the JCPOA happen again. 

Besides, Biden’s declining popularity even among Democrats and independents will also be a complicating factor. Iran is highly unlikely to allow a president who suffers from declining ratings to return to a deal already losing relevance to its economy. 

All this puts the onus on Biden to craft a credible policy to revive the JCPOA. And such a policy should begin at home by creating a consensus on preserving the nuclear deal with Iran in case it is resuscitated.

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