Joe Biden: If Iran returns to compliance with nuclear deal, US will lift sanctions—but also strengthen agreement

Laurie Mylroie | 8 hours ago –  3 Dec 2020 WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times, President-elect Joe Biden explained his policy toward Iran, after he is sworn into office on Jan. 20, 2021.

Times’ columnist Tom Friedman, who interviewed Biden on Tuesday evening and published it on Wednesday, asked him “whether he stood by his views on the Iran nuclear deal that he expressed in a Sept. 13 essay on”

“It’s going to be hard, but yeah,” Biden replied.

Biden had written that if Iran resumes “strict compliance” with the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal, negotiated under the Obama administration, when he was Vice-President, the US will resume its participation in the agreement “as a starting point for follow-on negotiations,” while working with US allies “to strengthen and extend” certain provisions of the deal.

One significant criticism of the agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is that it is limited in time. It is just for 15 years, which means that it will expire in 2030.

Indeed, one major provision of the JCPOA—the ban on conventional arms sales to Iran—expired already in October, and the Trump administration tried, but was unable, to gain the political support from other countries to re-establish it.

Indeed, in his interview with Friedman, Biden appeared to acknowledge some of the criticisms of the JCPOA, including those voiced by the Trump administration.

As Friedman explained, once both the US and Iran restore their adherence to the JCPOA, “there will have to be, in very short order, a new round of negotiations,” according to Biden.

Those talks would aim at lengthening the time period in which restrictions would be imposed on Iran’s production of fissile material for a nuclear weapon, as well as tackling “Iran’s malign regional activities, through its proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.”

Biden would also like to involve Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in future negotiations, in addition to the original signatories to the JCPOA: the US, Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany, and the European Union, along with Iran.

Biden stressed the importance of denying Iran nuclear weapons, warning that if Iran were to get a nuclear bomb, that would put significant pressure on Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, and other countries to do the same.

Indeed, last July, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists warned that Turkey appeared to be positioning itself to acquire nuclear know-how from Pakistan, a country which “likes to share nuclear technology,” as the Bulletin put it.

The Iranian government, apparently, did not like what it saw in Biden’s interview.

Tasnim News Agency is close to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and reported on the interview under the headline, “Biden Sets New Demands for Iran Nuclear Deal Return: NYT.”

On Wednesday, Iran’s Guardian Council ratified a law that the Iranian parliament had passed on Tuesday. It called for expelling International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear inspectors, if US sanctions were not lifted by early February.

The law also called for an immediate increase in the level of Iran’s enrichment of uranium to bring it closer to the level needed for a bomb. Currently, it is at four to five percent enrichment, and the new measure would bring it up to 20 percent.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had opposed the law, but the Guardian Council can overrule him.

Parliament was responding to last week’s assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, but it is possible that Biden’s interview contributed to the Guardian Council’s quick approval of the new law.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany