Trump’s pressure campaign against Iran has failed, Blinken says

February 20, 2021 - 18:58

TEHRAN – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has admittedly said that the Trump administration’s so-called “maximum pressure” against Iran has failed to produce results.

“We have a policy in recent years of so-called 'maximum pressure' on Iran that has not produced results. In fact, the problem has gotten worse,” the top U.S. diplomat told the BBC.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal –formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) - on May 8, 2018, based on allegations that the deal was flawed. Trump then launched what he called a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran in a bid to squeeze Iran “until the pips squeak,” according to the former U.S. national security advisor, John Bolton.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has described the imposition of unprecedented sanctions on Iran as another miscalculation aimed at bringing Iran to its knees.

“One of those ‘first-rate fools’ said that they would celebrate New Year 2019 in Tehran. That person has been sent to history’s trash can, and his boss has also been kicked out of the White House with disgrace, but the Islamic Republic is still standing strong on its feet, with God’s grace,” the Leader said in an apparent reference to Bolton and his former boss Trump.

Trump’s pressure campaign failed to achieve its stated goals, something that prompted Joe Biden to publicly oppose Trump's Iran policies and vow to change them.

Biden voiced strong criticism of Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA during his 2020 campaign when he also promised to rejoin the accord signed when he was vice president. However, he has failed to take corrective measures since he assumed office on January 20.

President Biden said on Friday that the U.S. must work with other major powers to rein in what he called Iran's “destabilizing” nuclear activities.

Blinken told the BBC the U.S. and its European partners were “once again on the same page” on Iran.

“President Biden has been clear for some time: if Iran returns to its obligations under the nuclear agreement, the United States will do the same thing,” he said.

And he said the U.S. would then work with other countries to confront Iran on other issues, including its influence in the region and its ballistic missile program.

The top diplomats of France, Germany, the UK and the U.S. issued a joint statement regarding Iran on Thursday following a virtual meeting hosted by France.

“The E3 welcomed the United States’ stated intention to return to diplomacy with Iran as well as the resumption of a confident and in-depth dialogue between the E3 and the United States. The Ministers affirmed strong interest in continuing their consultations and coordination, including with China and Russia, on this key security issue, recognizing the role of the High Representative of the European Union as Coordinator of the Joint Commission,” the statement said, adding, “The E3 and the United States affirmed their shared objective of Iran’s return to full compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA. Secretary Blinken reiterated that, as President Biden has said, if Iran comes back into strict compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA, the United States will do the same and is prepared to engage in discussions with Iran toward that end.”

On Friday, Biden expressed the White House’s readiness to “re-engage” with the group of countries that are party to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

Giving a speech via video-link to the Munich Security Conference on Friday, Biden pointed out that the U.S. was “prepared to re-engage in negotiations” within the “P5+1” countries, which initially negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran — namely France, Britain, Germany, the U.S., Russia and China.

Earlier on Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was willing to attend a meeting of the P5+1, although the U.S. is not a member of this group of major world powers.

“The United States would accept an invitation from the European Union High Representative to attend a meeting of the P5+1 and Iran to discuss a diplomatic way forward on Iran's nuclear program,” Price noted, referring to the UN Security Council's five permanent members and Germany.

Price’s remarks signified a U.S. desire to walk into the P4+1 with the help of the E3 even before lifting its sanctions on Iran.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh reminded the West that the U.S. is still not a JCPOA member and the only way to get the JCPOA membership is to lift sanctions.

“Reminder: Because of US withdrawal from JCPOA, there is NO P5+1. It is now ONLY Iran and P4+1. Remember, Trump left the room and tried to blow it up. Gestures are fine. But to revive P5+1, U.S. must Act: LIFT sanctions. We WILL respond. Here is the key sequence: #CommitActMeet,” Khatibzadeh said in a tweet on Friday.

Iran has long said that for the JCPOA to be revived the U.S. should lift sanctions first. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has introduced a new initiative to get the deal revived. He said the U.S. should make a commitment to lift sanctions and act on this commitment and then seek a meeting with Iran.

“U.S. acknowledged Pompeo's claims regarding Resolution 2231 had no legal validity. We agree. In compliance with 2231: U.S. unconditionally & effectively lift all sanctions imposed, re-imposed or re-labeled by Trump. We will then immediately reverse all remedial measures. Simple: #CommitActMeet,” the chief Iranian diplomat said in a tweet last week.

The Iranian foreign minister’s position on the necessity of lifting the sanctions was in line with Ayatollah Khamenei’s recent stance in this regard.

The Leader underlined the need for the U.S. to lift all of its sanctions before Iran implementing the JCPOA in full.

Addressing the people of East Azerbaijan province on Wednesday, the Leader pointed out that the Islamic Republic has heard many words and promises from the other side about the nuclear deal but this time only actions matter, and if the Islamic Republic sees actions from Europe and the U.S., it will act too.

“About the JCPOA, promises were made by the other side. I am saying one thing: We’ve heard many promises which were broken and contradicted in practice. Mere words don't help. This time only action! Action! If the Islamic Republic sees action from the other side, it will act too,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, adding, “We set the condition and the condition will not be retreated from.”