President-elect Joe Biden has promised to rejoin the nuclear deal with Iran, a step that Tehran sought to take after the agreement was abandoned two years ago by President Donald Trump. But a return will pose challenges for both sides as they try to restore confidence in a radically different environment than five years ago.
For one thing, Iranian officials see no room for renegotiation of the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (JCPOA), the historic agreement they reached with the United States in 2015 alongside the leading powers China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom (P5+1).
Instead, Iran is seeking to pressure Washington to account for billions of dollars in lost revenues resulting from the unilateral U.S. sanctions imposed by the Trump administration after the U.S. walked away from the agreement.
Iranian Foreign Minister Saeed Khatibzadeh presented his country’s position at a press conference on Monday.
“What the Islamic Republic of Iran has repeatedly stated is that the JCPOA is the product of long-term talks between Iran and the P5+1 and cannot be reopened or renegotiated,” he told reporters. “The United States has violated UN Security Council Resolution 2231, withdrawn from the JCPOA and caused harm to the Iranian people.
He then set out his demands to hold the United States accountable.
“Therefore, the United States assumes legal responsibility for the violation of Resolution 2231,” Khatibzadeh said. “Iran is in a position to demand that the United States be held accountable for its illegal and anti-Iranian behavior.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani offered a similar report the day before in his first official statements following Biden’s predicted victory in the presidential elections.
“Trump’s harmful policies were fought not only by nations around the world, but also by the American people,” Rouhani said. “The future U.S. administration should take the opportunity to make amends for the mistakes of the past.
It’s unclear what if some kind of reparation could be on the table, or even how much Trump’s so-called “maximum pressure” campaign actually cost the Islamic Republic, but Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has put the estimate near $70 billion.
These restrictions have hit particularly hard this year, as Iran continues to suffer daily from record-breaking cases of COVID-19.
With the end of Trump’s presidency, however, Rouhani declared victory in his country’s “heroic resistance to the economic war that has been imposed. The following day, the Iranian leader tied Biden’s victory to the national urge to recalibrate Washington’s foreign policy.
“It is up to the elected officials and new leaders in the United States to understand their nation’s message well and to implement this will to change their foreign policy and their relations with other nations,” Rouhani said.
He said this means “a return to the rule of law, internationally recognized rules and obligations, respect for the rights of nations and reparations are among the conditions for restoring America’s global credibility.
Nevertheless, before the election, Iranian officials expressed both publicly and to Washington Newsday that they had no preference in the U.S. presidential campaign. Regardless of the outcome of the election, they pushed for Washington’s full return to the JCPOA without conditions.
Biden has promised to return, but only if Iran complies again with some of the commitments from which it has since withdrawn because other participants have not normalized their trade relations with the Islamic Republic after the US withdrawal.
These commitments include restricting uranium enrichment back to 3.67 percent, stopping production at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant and stopping the installation of advanced centrifuges. Earlier this month, the Iranian Parliament passed a bill to further increase uranium enrichment, increasing the commitment for future negotiations.
“If Tehran were to abide by the agreement again, President Biden would re-enter the agreement,” Biden’s official foreign policy statement said, “with hard-nosed diplomacy and the support of our allies to strengthen and expand it while taking more effective action against other destabilizing activities of Iran.