Iran said on Monday that the US has to remove sanctions and return to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal before the Islamic Republic starts scaling back on its nuclear activities.
The US “cannot return to the nuclear accord with one signature in the way that they left with one,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a press conference in Tehran, Bloomberg reported.
He said the first step is for the US to lift the sanctions on Iran and fully implement the UN Security Council Resolution 2231, rather than just reentering the 2015 nuclear agreement between the Islamic Republic and world powers.
“We’re waiting for US action to effectively undo sanctions, give us access to our own funds, permit easy oil exports and allow the transfer of oil revenue, shipping and insurance,” Khatibzadeh told reporters, referring to billions of dollars of payments for oil exports that are trapped overseas because of banking sanctions.
He argued that the US cannot simply rejoin the nuclear deal by signing a piece of paper. “A signature on a piece of paper will not suffice."
Iran began to roll back its nuclear activities a year after former US president Donald Trump pulled his country from the 2015 nuclear deal – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – and reimposed and reinforced sanctions in 2018 as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign against the Islamic Republic with the declared aim of forcing Tehran to negotiate a new deal.
Trump’s “maximum pressure” has been met with Iran’s “maximum resistance” policy, which includes austerity measures to weather the economic pressure as well as reducing Tehran's commitments under the JCPOA, Press TV reported.
US President Joe 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.
“If the Biden administration intends to correct the US’ wrong path, it should take practical measures,” Khatibzadeh noted.
The spokesman said there won’t be any direct bilateral talks with the US until it first returns to the original bloc of six powers that brokered the accord. Washington can then join discussions over Iran’s nuclear work but within the existing mechanism that’s outlined within the JCPOA.
“As soon as the US starts to take effective measures, Iran will respond proportionately,” Khatibzadeh said.
The White House on Friday appointed Robert Malley, who served on the US team that negotiated the original Iran deal, to serve as adviser on Iran. Malley has a long background in conflict resolution in the Middle East and his arrival was broadly welcomed by proponents of the accord – the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told NBC News on Sunday that the US is willing to return to compliance with the JCPOA if Iran does and then work with US allies and partners on a “longer and stronger” agreement encompassing other issues.
Iran has time and again ruled out talks on its missile program and regional influence within the framework of the JCPOA, saying the issues are irrelevant and non-negotiable.
Blinken also claimed that Iran is months away from being able to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, saying it could be only “a matter of weeks” if Iran continues to lift restraints in the nuclear deal.
Iran has stressed that its nuclear program is purely peaceful, for medical purposes and power generation.
Iran’s Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa (religious decree) prohibiting the production of nuclear weapons.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Friday that Biden is eyeing an urgent restoration of the international nuclear deal with Iran as a first step to resolve the nuclear stalemate with the Islamic Republic, suggesting a faster timeline than the new administration has previously outlined.
Sullivan said a critical early priority for the Biden administration is to address what he called an escalating crisis with Iran.
“From our perspective, a critical early priority has to be to deal with what is an escalating nuclear crisis as they (Iran) move closer and closer to having enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon,” Sullivan told an online program sponsored by the US Institute of Peace, Reuters reported.
“We would like to make sure that we reestablish some of the parameters and constraints around the program that have fallen away over the course of the past two years,” he added, according to The Washington Post.