US remains committed to return to Iran nuclear deal, if Iran does the same

Raisi stated that “there need to be guarantees” that no future US administration will leave the accord, as Trump did.
Delegations are discussing the revival of Iran nuclear deal in Vienna. (Photo: AFP)
Delegations are discussing the revival of Iran nuclear deal in Vienna. (Photo: AFP)

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Last week, Iran’s hardline president Ebrahim Raisi, in his first interview with a US television network, again repeated an impossible condition for the renewal of the 2015 nuclear accord that former President Donald Trump left in 2018, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA.)

Speaking last Tuesday to CBS’s 60 Minutes, in an interview that was broadcast six days later, Raisi stated that “there need to be guarantees” that no future US administration will leave the accord, as Trump did.

But the Biden administration can make no such commitment for the JCPOA. If the agreement were a formal treaty, it would be better positioned to do so. But a treaty requires approval by a 2/3 majority of the US Senate, and the renewal of the JCPOA does not have such support in Congress. Indeed, it is questionable whether a vote on renewing the JCPOA would win even a simple majority.

Nonetheless, the Biden administration remains committed to reviving the accord, if Iran reciprocates.

“President [Joe] Biden has a ‘clearly demonstrated commitment to return the U.S. to full compliance with the JCPOA and to stay in full compliance, so long as Iran does the same,’” a State Department spokesperson said, addressing a question from Kurdistan 24 about their response to Raisi’s remarks to 60 Minutes.

“There should be no doubt as to the President’s commitment to this position,” he stated.

Growing European Pessimism

The continued US affirmation of the viability of the JCPOA negotiations stands in contrast to a growing pessimism in Europe.

On Monday, French Foreign Minister, Catherine Colonna, speaking in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, advised Tehran to accept the current deal, which has been on the table since last spring.

“There will not be a better offer on the table, and it’s up to Iran to take the right decisions,” Colonna said.

Already last week, European countries began to criticize Iran’s position in the JCPOA talks. That marked the first time they had done so.

Read More: US: ‘Not too late’ to renew Iran nuclear accord, despite E-3, Israeli pessimism

On Sept. 10, Germany, France, and the U.K. (the E-3) issued a joint statement, strongly critical of Iran’s latest negotiating position. Their statement, as Kurdistan 24 noted, was an implicit rebuke of Josep Borrell, the EU Foreign Policy Chief, who, until then, had been the biggest Western cheerleader for a return to the JCPOA.

Borrell: I was Misled by Iran

And, soon, Borrell fell in line, dropping his unwarranted optimism about prospects for a return to the deal. Indeed, on Monday, Borrell joined Colonna in expressing pessimism about such prospects.

“Now we are at a stalemate. Now we are stopped,” Borrell told the on-line news magazine Politico, as he noted the last position adopted by Iran. Borrell told Politico that he did not think there would be progress on the issue at this week’s General Assembly opening.

Asked if he would meet the Iranian president, who is also in New York for the UN  opening, Borrell’s response was to suggest that the Iranians had misled him.

“They promised me,” he said. “They went to Doha. They went to Vienna,” and no agreement followed.

Indeed, the JCPOA talks in Doha were quite ill-prepared, ending after just two days. “The quick end of the latest round of talks raised the question of why they had even resumed in the first place,” Kurdistan 24 reported then.

Read More: Iran nuclear talks end after just two days, as doubts grow about effort

On Monday, Borrell revealed the answer: the Iranians had made promises, and he had been naive enough to believe them. Then, he did the same thing a month later, when Vienna played host to another brief round of JCPOA talks.

Read More: Surprise resumption of Iran nuclear talks amid limited expectations

US: Iran is Responsible for Deadlock

Although the Biden administration affirmed its commitment to a mutual return to the JCPOA, it also made clear that it sees Iran as the party responsible for the stalemate—the same position expressed by the major European powers.

“There is only one reason that we have not yet reached an understanding,” the State Department spokesperson told Kurdistan 24. “Tehran has not yet accepted the reasonable text presented by the EU as the coordinator of JCPOA talks.”

But “it is not yet too late to conclude a deal,” the Spokesperson continued. “As long as we believe pursuing JCPOA talks is in U.S. national security interests, we will continue to do so.”