0353 GMT January 17, 2021
If US President-elect Joe Biden seeks to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), he will have to fulfill US commitments under the nuclear deal and lift the sanctions, said the Iranian foreign minister.
Speaking in an interview with Iran newspaper, Mohammad Javad Zarif added by pulling Washington out of the JCPOA, President Donald Trump solely failed to benefit from the deal, which was the mistake he and his associates made.
In May 2018, under an executive order signed by Trump, the US withdrew from the JCPOA, signed between Iran and the P5+1 in July 2015, and reimposed Washington’s unilateral sanctions on Iran. Mainly targeting Iran’s oil and banking sectors, the sanctions failed to achieve the desired result.
On November 3, the US presidential election was held, which ended in Biden’s victory. Trump, however, has yet to concede to his democratic rival, preventing a smooth transition. He claims that the election was “rigged”, which has resulted in rallies by his supporters.
In the interview, Zarif also commented on recent developments in the US and the future of the standoff between Iran and the US in terms of the JCPOA.
Excerpts of the interview follow:
IRAN DAILY: How do you assess the result of US presidential election and the developments that have unfolded after the race?
MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF: The post-election developments as well as the anticipated tension in the country are still taking place and continuing. Unlike previous presidential elections in the US, this one is not suggestive of a smooth and peaceful transition of power. This characteristic has been, and still is, part of Trump’s personality. He is ready to strain every nerve to stay in power.
On Tuesday, The New York Times published a report saying that Trump had even a plan to attack Iran to notch up victory in the election. All the measures and policies Trump adopted after his win in November 2016 election, had been designed in a way to guarantee his reelection.
Prior to his victory, during his stump speeches over the course of his presidential election campaign, Biden had promised to return to many international agreements and treaties Trump had abandoned during his term in office. What significant difference do you see between these two politicians?
We have to accept the reality that Trump’s defeat was not a consequence of his administration’s foreign policy. He failed to secure a reelection win due to the US internal issues, such as economic problems and the rapid coronavirus spread. This comes as Trump has a law-defying character and has abused his power on several occasions, which are two other reasons for his defeat.
Trump’s highly dangerous foreign policy did not play a significant role in his failure to secure enough votes for a second term, which can be an alarm to the entire world as the international community is required to realize that the American society has shown an inclination toward radicalism. The second point is that Trump’s foreign policy has been among the most unsuccessful ones in the history of the US. As a powerful state, the US behavior and bullying have forced other countries into acquiescing to its demands. Washington has adopted the same approach, particularly, over the past few years.
Naturally, during Biden’s term in office, the US and Europe would have a more rational relationship with each other. The US would adopt less unilateral approaches although it has never completely abandoned such policies. The extent of Biden’s success or failure on the international scene would depend on his efforts to adapt himself and the US with the transition of power in the world from the West to the East, a global development the unfolding of which has been expedited by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Any attempt aimed at preventing such a power transition will be doomed to failure, a result achieved by Biden’s predecessors.
Prior to the announcement of the election result, Biden had pledged to return to the JCPOA. He has not conditioned this return on any specific move by Iran. How do you assess this pledge?
Allow me to mention a few points. First, Trump’s policy of withdrawal from the JCPOA and “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran resulted in a failure. This does not mean that we benefited from the policy. It implies that Trump failed to achieve the desired result. We faced great pressure as a consequence of such a strategy. Although we defeated the US, the domestic economy suffered losses under Trump’s sanctions. However, the reality is that the US policy ended in a failure and its continuation will be doomed to more failures.
Second, the US has two positions. It is a member of both the JCPOA and the United Nations. Although Trump pulled the US out of the JCPOA, he did not withdraw the country from the UN. Whether under Biden or Trump, the US must remain committed to Article 25 of the UN Charter, mandating the member states to accept and carry out the decisions of the UN Security Council. Thus, as a UN member and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the US cannot say the Resolution 2231 — a July 20, 2015 resolution endorsing the JCPOA on the peaceful nuclear program of Iran — is illegal. By pulling Washington out of the JCPOA, Trump solely failed to benefit from the deal. This was the mistake Trump and his associates made. If Biden seeks to return to the JCPOA, he will have to fulfill US commitments under the deal and lift the sanctions.
Iranian people’s resistance against the sanctions during the past three years on the one hand and the smart diplomacy pursued by the Foreign Ministry on the other has led to the isolation of the US. Given that such a resistance is a national and social asset, is it going to be used as a leverage in would-be negotiations between Iran the US?
The US has no other option but to return to the JCPOA and fulfill its commitments, as Iranians’ resistance doomed the “maximum pressure” campaign to failure. Although we have suffered costs in this period, our people told the US that the continuation of such a policy will earn it nothing.
What would be Iran’s response if, after entering the White House, Biden conditions the removal of the sanctions on, first, certain moves by Iran?
The US is definitely in no position to set out conditions for us. As a UN member and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the US is duty-bound to implement Resolution 2231. If the resolution is implemented, the sanctions will be removed. Iran has announced that in that case, it will resume honoring its commitments under the JCPOA.
Thus, first, if the US meets its commitments under Resolution 2231, we will fulfill ours under the JCPOA. Second, if the US seeks to join the JCPOA again, we are ready to negotiate the terms and conditions of Washington’s membership in the deal.