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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region

Iran: “This Is Not the Time for Talks with the United States”

Filed under: Iran, U.S. Policy

Iran: “This Is Not the Time for Talks with the United States”
Is Biden’s lifeline being rejected? (The Levant UK)1

Iran threatens to completely remove all supervision of its nuclear program if the International Atomic Energy Agency adopts a resolution against it.

Iran continues to take an uncompromising stance regarding the United States’ offer to return to the nuclear deal and a series of moves in Europe and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to restart cooperation under the nuclear agreement. Iran objected categorically to a U.S. move to try to harness the IAEA, ahead of its March 1, 2021, meeting, to adopt a resolution that will “express the Board’s deepening concern for Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA” in light of the ongoing erosion of its commitments to oversee its nuclear programs. The resolution would also call on Iran to cease its repeated violations and explain the latest findings of uranium particles at old, undeclared nuclear sites.2

A spokesman for the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, warned in a meeting held with members of Iran’s parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Majlis that if such a decision were adopted, Iran would take “appropriate retaliatory measures.” Such a resolution would have a “devastating effect” on the agreement signed on February 21, 2021, between Iran and the IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi during his visit to Iran,3 and Salehi implied that it would further reduce the quickly eroding monitoring that still takes place.

Salehi said Iran had already sent a letter in this spirit to the director-general of the agency. On February 23, 2021, Iran stopped cooperating under the “Additional Protocol” that allowed for short-notice inspections of its nuclear program in accordance with the Iranian parliament’s decision to challenge sanctions. The declaration provided for a “temporary bilateral technical understanding” permitting the IAEA to “continue its necessary verification and monitoring activities for up to 3 months, but the IAEA will have “no access to this information, and the information remains exclusively with Iran.”  Specifically, Salehi declared, “The IAEA will be denied access to surveillance cameras.” He stressed that if sanctions are not lifted, information recorded by the cameras will be deleted, and cameras will be uninstalled.4

Ali Akbar Salehi
Salehi threatened to erode nuclear program oversight further (Tasnim)

Meanwhile, in light of the impasse that U.S. diplomacy has encountered in its efforts to return to the nuclear deal, Iran has announced that it is not the “suitable time” for direct talks with the United States on the nuclear agreement under the format proposed by the European Union. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that given the “positions and actions of the United States and European countries, this is not the right time for direct talks.” The Iranian speaker reiterated that President Biden continues to adopt, like his predecessor, the policy of maximum pressure on Iran.

“Remember,” he tweeted, “Trump failed because of this policy. As long as the sanctions remain in effect, the failure will continue. Pressure is not diplomacy. It does not work with Iran.” He added that as far as Iran was concerned, the way forward was clear – lifting all sanctions on Iran and meeting previous commitments – “for this purpose, no negotiations or decisions of the IAEA Board of Governors are required.” At the same time, the spokesman noted that Iran would continue to consult with the countries that signed the nuclear agreement, the Chairman of the IAEA Board of Governors, and the European Union Minister for Foreign Affairs Joseph Burrell. Khatibzadeh’s remarks were widely quoted in the Iranian media, including Press TV, the English-language Iranian propaganda channel.5

In the meanwhile, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani predicted that “the world and America will eventually have to kneel in front of this great nation and abandon the oppressive sanctions [policy],” adding that Iran had already accomplished victory in “toppling that butcher and murderer in America.”6 In this regard, he hailed the termination of Trump’s tenure, dubbing it as a great victory for Iran. Rouhani said that the new U.S. administration “has already acknowledged four times that the previous American administration’s maximum pressure was wrong and did not achieve any results.” Rouhani described the JCPOA as so great an achievement that a global plot was hatched to break it apart. He labeled Trump as the “executor of the conspiracies of Zionists and regional (Arab Sunni) reactionary force against the JCPOA.”

President Biden in Iranian cartoon
Biden’s complications in lifting the sanctions on Iran quickly (Tasnim)

The remarks made by the Iranian President and Foreign Ministry spokesman were made following a report in the Wall Street Journal that Iran had so far rejected an offer by the European Union to organize direct nuclear talks with the United States.7  Iran is determined to ensure the lifting of sanctions before the renewal of talks, and the United States continues to adhere to its position that Iran must first retract the enrichment steps it has taken. Iran’s continued activity in the field of terrorism, including pro-Iranian militias shooting at American military and civilian interests in Iraq to exert pressure on the United States, makes it more difficult for the United States to return to the framework of the agreement. In the face of the Iranian attacks, the United States initially restrained itself and was criticized domestically and by its regional allies. On February 25, the United States attacked pro-Iranian militia targets at the Abu Kamal border crossing between Iraq and Syria, further sharpening tensions with Iran. The Iranian Revolution Guards were believed to be behind an attack on the Helios Ray, an Israeli-owned commercial ship in the Oman Sea on February 26, injecting another dimension of tensions in the region, along with the Houthis’ continued missile and drone strikes against targets in Saudi Arabia.

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