Biden says Iran must return to the nuclear business before easing sanctions


U.S. President-elect Joe Biden attends a briefing to make comments on the U.S. response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak on December 29, 2020 at his headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden said the United States would not offer sanctions relief to lure Iran back to the negotiating table on the country’s nuclear program.

Biden pointed out in an interview with CBS that Iran would have to stop enriching uranium before its government lifted the sanctions. The interview will be broadcast on Sunday evening.

When asked whether the US would lift the sanctions to bring Iran back to the negotiating table, Biden said “no”.

Tensions between Washington and Tehran have increased after former President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the landmark nuclear deal.

The 2015 joint comprehensive plan of action brokered by the Obama administration lifted sanctions against Iran, which paralyzed its economy and cut its oil exports roughly in half. In return for the sanctions easing, Iran accepted limits on its nuclear program until the terms expire in 2025.

The US and its European allies believe Iran has ambitions to develop an atomic bomb. Tehran has denied this claim.

Trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA in 2018, calling it the “worst deal ever”.

After Washington withdrew from the landmark nuclear deal, other signatories to the pact – France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China – tried to keep the deal alive.

Tehran has refused to negotiate as long as the US sanctions remain in place.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reiterated on Sunday that Tehran will not return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal until Washington lifts sanctions, Iranian state television reported.

“Iran has fulfilled all of its obligations under the agreement, not the United States and the three European countries … In practice, if they want Iran to return to its commitments, the US must … lift all sanctions” State television quoted Khamenei as a saying.

“After verifying that all sanctions have been properly lifted, we will return to full compliance,” he reportedly added.

Standoff with Iran

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani takes a break while speaking during a press conference in Tehran, Iran on Monday October 14, 2019.

Bloomberg | Getty Images

Washington’s strained relationship with Tehran took several twists and turns under the Trump administration that pushed opponents to the brink of war.

Last year the US carried out an air strike that killed Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s top military commander.

Soleimani’s death prompted the regime to further reduce compliance with the international nuclear pact. In January, Iran said it would no longer curtail its uranium enrichment capacity or its nuclear research.

In October, the United States unilaterally re-imposed UN sanctions on Tehran as part of a snapback process, which other UN Security Council members had previously stated that Washington was not empowered to enforce as it withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018.

A month later, a top Iranian scientist was murdered near Tehran, leading the Iranian government to claim that Israel, with US support, was behind the attack.

The well-known Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh can be seen in Iran in this undated photo.

WANA | via Reuters

In the summer of 2019, a series of attacks in the Persian Gulf continued to worsen relations.

In June, US officials said an Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down an American military surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran said the plane was over its territory.

That strike came a week after the US held Iran responsible for attacks on two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf region and after four tankers were attacked in May.

In June the US imposed new sanctions on Iranian military leaders who were held responsible for shooting down the drone. The measures were also aimed at blocking financial resources for Khamenei.

Tensions rose again in September last year when the US blamed Iran for strikes in Saudi Arabia at the world’s largest crude oil processing plant and oil field.

This attack forced the kingdom to cut its manufacturing operations in half, sparking the largest surge in crude oil prices in decades and renewing concerns about a new war in the Middle East. Iran claims it was not behind the attacks.