Biden team still undecided on their policies, Zarif says 

February 14, 2021 - 8:53

TEHRAN – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said he feels that the new Joe Biden administration is still undecided on its policies, insisting on Iran’s position that it is the U.S. side that should take the first step in order to resolve the issues surrounding the 2015 nuclear deal.

“It’s impossible [for Iran] to take the initiative to make concessions,” Zarif said in an interview with China’s Phoenix Television broadcast on Wednesday.

Zarif was reaffirming Iran’s position on the 2015 nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was abandoned in May 2018 by former U.S. president Donald Trump in pursuit of “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.

Trump’s exit from the JCPOA has been strongly criticized by U.S. Democrats, including President Joe Biden, who prior to the November presidential election promised to re-enter the deal but has so far reneged on his promise.
“I feel that the Americans have not yet decided on their policies. That’s why the White House had to correct Mr. Biden’s remarks many times,” said Zarif, a few days after Biden said in an interview with CBS that he would not lift sanctions in order to encourage Iran to return to the negotiating table.

In similar remarks in a tweet on Thursday, Zarif said Biden’s America remains in exactly the same position as Trump’s America. He also urged the U.S. to comply with the deal instead of “spouting off”.
Following the U.S. pullout from the JCPOA, Iran waited a whole year for the other parties to the deal – namely the UK, Britain, Germany, Russia and China – to protect its interests as promised in the historic agreement. But as they failed to do so, Iran began to gradually scale down its commitments under the deal in May 2019.

However, Tehran has repeatedly insisted that it will return to full compliance once the other parties, especially the U.S., honor their obligations.

Under the JCPOA endorsed by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, Iran is obliged to limit its nuclear activities in exchange for termination of economic and financial sanctions.

Elsewhere in the interview, Zarif said it is patently obvious that Washington is violating international rules.

“It is obvious who should abandon such policies, which are in violation of international rules, and lift all these sanctions,” Zarif remarked.
Referring to Biden’s criticism of Trump’s pullout from the JCPOA, Zarif said Biden has a clear option of abandoning his predecessor’s Iran policy and doing away with the sanctions.

Therefore, he continued, there is no necessity for Iran to take the initiative in returning to full compliance with the deal.
Zarif then clarified his recent remarks on the role European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell can play in order to save the JCPOA.

While the U.S. should take action to lift sanctions, it should also be reassured that Iran would return to compliance with the JCPOA, Zarif said. “And for that to take place, we have a mechanism in the JCPOA called the Joint Commission, which has a chairman called Mr. Borrell, and Mr. Borrell can do this.”

In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour earlier this month, Zarif said Borrell could prevent the issue from reaching an impasse by coordinating a synchronized U.S. return into the nuclear pact and Tehran’s full compliance with it.

Abbas Araqchi, Zarif’s deputy for political affairs, has also said Iran will return to full compliance with the JCPOA only after the U.S. lifts all the sanctions and after Iran will be able to verify the termination of those sanctions.

In an interview with the official website of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei published on Friday, Araqchi said, “The U.S. must lift the sanctions in full, not [merely] in words or on paper, but in practice,” Araqchi told “We will verify that, and whenever we feel the sanctions are lifted in a proper manner, we will, for our part, return to our commitments.” 
 ‘A test for Americans’

During his Wednesday interview, Iran’s chief diplomat said Tehran is currently waiting to see whether the new U.S. administration would return to the JCPOA, noting, “This would be a test for the Americans.”

“When we see the result of the test, any administration that would be in power at the time, would decide how to proceed,” Zarif pointed out.

“So far, we have heard nothing but words, and not all the words have been positive,” Zarif remarked.

The foreign minister stressed that whenever all of Iran’s blocked assets in the world, including money for food and medicine for Iranian people, are unblocked, the country would see that as a goodwill gesture from the U.S. side.

“If the U.S. shows such goodwill, the response to it will definitely be goodwill as well,” he added.

Hossein Dehqan, a military advisor to Leader of the Islamic Revolution, said on Thursday that the policies adopted by the Biden administration are the same as those pursued under Trump.

“The Biden administration talked about diplomacy, multilateralism and interaction in the international arena as well as returning to its international commitments,” Dehqan said in an interview with The Guardian.

He said, however, the Biden administration has not lifted the oppressive sanctions against Iranian people, while continuing to block Iran’s oil revenue in foreign banks despite Iran’s dire need for that money to fight against the coronavirus outbreak.
“Altogether this means the continuation of Trumpism in international relations,” added Dehqan, a former defense minister who is eying the June presidential elections in Iran.

In remarks in late January, Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei warned that time is limited for the U.S. to return to its obligation under the JCPOA.

"Of course, the United States will not have time forever, and the opportunity is very limited, not only for the United States but also for the European members of the JCPOA," Rabiei remarked.