Joe Biden: Iranian nuclear deal is “dead”

The JCPOA is “dead,” Biden told a woman on the campaign trail in California. “But we’re not going to announce it. Long story."
U.S. President Joe Biden on the campaign trail in California. (Photo: screenshotted from a video posted on Twitter)
U.S. President Joe Biden on the campaign trail in California. (Photo: screenshotted from a video posted on Twitter)

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) - A video recorded last month of U.S. President Joe Biden on the campaign trail in California revealed the far-reaching extent of his administration’s reversal of its initial policy toward Iran in seeking to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which Donald Trump left in 2018.

Joe Biden’s Clear and Frank Statement

The JCPOA is “dead,” Biden told a woman, apparently an Iranian American, who pressed him to state publicly that the JCPOA was dead. “Can you just announce that,” she asked him.

Biden rejected her appeal for a public announcement for what he said were “a lot of reasons.” But in an age of cell phones with video cameras, the distinction between a private statement and a public announcement easily blurs.

So, while Biden rejected her appeal to declare the JCPOA dead, he affirmed, on camera, “It is dead.”

Biden then continued, “But we’re not going to announce it. Long story, but we’re going to make sure. . . .” At that point, Biden seemed to cut himself off.

What did he mean to say? The Biden administration has long maintained that it will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. But if Iran does not renew the JCPOA and abide by its limits, how can that be done?

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to the liberal U.S. Jewish organization, J Street. Iran featured prominently in his address. While he stressed that diplomacy was the best option to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, Blinken added, “Should the Iranian regime reject that path,” then “all options are on the table.”

It sounded like he was raising the prospect of military force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons if diplomacy failed. Kurdistan 24 asked if that was so.

In response to a question by Kurdistan 24 during a press briefing, a State Department spokesperson said “As Secretary Blinken said, we believe diplomacy is the best way to achieve that goal. But President Biden has also been clear," he continued, “that we have not removed any option from the table, and that a military option remains as a last resort.”

Read More: Biden committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapon; military option remains as ‘last resort’

That was, in fact, what Biden had said in Israel on a visit in July, as Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told Kurdistan 24.

However, the reply to Kurdistan 24’s question was the first occasion on which any other US official had publicly stated, on the record, that the US was prepared to use military force to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

White House and State Department Spokespersons

On Tuesday, no US official—neither John Kirby, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, nor Ned Price, State Department Spokesperson—was prepared to state in a formal setting what Biden had said in a private setting: i.e., that the JCPOA was “dead.”

That is not surprising, because Biden had also said he would not announce that. However, Kirby and Price both indicated that the JCPOA was moribund.

“There is no progress happening with respect to the Iran deal now,” and “we don’t anticipate any progress in the near future,” Kirby told reporters.

Price spoke similarly, asserting, “The JCPOA is not on the agenda” and “hasn’t been on the agenda for some time.”

“Since September,” Price continued, “our focus has been on standing up for the fundamental freedoms of the Iranian people and countering Iran’s deepening military partnership with Russia and its support for Russia, as Moscow wages its brutal invasion of Ukraine.”

Asked directly if he was prepared to declare the JCPOA dead, as Biden had done, Price replied, “The Iranians killed the opportunity for a swift return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA.” Price then repeated what Amb. Robert Wood had said, as he represented the U.S. on Monday in New York, when the Security Council discussed Iran and its compliance with Resolution 2231: every time it seemed an agreement had been reached on renewing the JCPOA, Iran would introduce a new, unrelated condition.

Read More: US condemns Iranian drone sales to Russia; arms transfers to Houthis; failure to renew nuclear deal

Thus, Price described the experience: “time and again, on several occasions now, we thought we were close” to an agreement, as did the Europeans and the other negotiating parties, “only to have the rug pulled out from under us by the Iranians.”

If the JCPOA is Dead, Why not Say So?

That is the question that US policy toward Iran now invites. Why not admit that your original policy hasn’t worked?

So far, the administration has not answered that question. Perhaps, it doesn’t want to admit the old policy failed, because it is not sure of its new policy. Perhaps, it doesn’t want to create too much of a gap with the European Union, whose foreign policy chief still thinks the pursuit of the JCPOA is better than any alternative. Perhaps, there is some other explanation.

But Ben Taleblu regards that as a mistake. “Now is the time for the administration to act in recognition that a dead JCPOA does nothing for US national security and move to restore older UN penalties on Iran through the snapback sanctions,” he advised Kurdistan 24.

He also suggested that the failure to publicly declare the JCPOA “dead” contradicted the administration’s declared policy of supporting Iranian protestors.

“It is an impediment to their aims, as it keeps the door open to bailing out the regime against which the Iranian people have been so bravely protesting.” Ben Taleblu said.