15:03 GMT18 January 2021
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    In 2018, US President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that had been signed by his predecessor. Now that Joe Biden is presumed to ascend to the Oval Office in January, voices from the Iranian government reportedly indicate a potential renewal of the agreement, with American involvement.

    The government of Iran said on Monday that it would recommence compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement within an hour of the US doing the same, The Guardian reported on Monday.

    President Hassan Rouhani clarified that he was facing increased pressure from the current Trump administration due to new sanctions against two Iranian officials over alleged ties to the kidnapping of an ex-FBI agent.

    Rouhani said he would not be prepared to make any changes to the deal, or any add any restrictions on Iran’s existing ballistic missile apparatus.

    Addressing the execution of Iranian opposition figure and journalist Ruhollah Zam for "Corruption on Earth", the president said that European countries “have the right to comment, but Zam was executed upon a court’s ruling”. He said that the Iranian judiciary was independent and that the move is unlikely to harm "Iran-Europe relations".

    Rouhani also criticised internal opposition, claiming that certain elements in Iran were willing to see US sanctions maintained on the Islamic republic for another five years.

    The comments, indicating a desire to see crippling US sanctions relieved, come ahead of a meeting of the joint commission on Wednesday - the body involving the existing signatories of the nuclear deal.

    It would present the first opportunity for Iran and the European powers – France, Germany, and the UK – to consider a path for a US return to involvement in the agreement under a presumptive future Joe Biden administration.

    However, Iran has been subject to accusations on Monday for the presumed death of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who disappeared in 2007 while on Iran’s Kish Island.

    “Senior Iranian officials authorised Levinson’s abduction and detention and launched a disinformation campaign to deflect blame from the regime”, alleged US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a statement.

    The US also announced the introduction of sanctions on the two Iranian intelligence officers who Washington believes are responsible for Levinson’s abduction.

    Calming tensions between the Islamic republic and the EU were also stalled due to Zam's execution on Saturday, which was condemned by major European powers.

    Ruhollah Zam, a dissident journalist who was captured in what Tehran calls an intelligence operation, is seen during his trial in Tehran, Iran June 2, 2020. Picture taken June 2, 2020.
    © REUTERS / Mizan News Agency/WANA
    Ruhollah Zam, a dissident journalist who was captured in what Tehran calls an intelligence operation, is seen during his trial in Tehran, Iran June 2, 2020. Picture taken June 2, 2020.

    The move saw the suspension of a three-day international conference on economic partnership promotion between Europe and Iran, as four EU envoys in Tehran who were set to address the conference withdrew in protest, describing the punishment as a barbaric execution. It was also denounced by Jake Sullivan - Joe Biden’s national security adviser nominee.

    Some considered the execution to be an attempt by Iran's so-called 'hardliners' to sabotage any potential reconciliation.

    The Iranian government did not see Zam as a journalist but rather as an instigator of street protests in 2017. According to The Guardian, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) claimed last week that Zam had been captured in Iraq before being brought to Iran.

    The US secretary of state slammed the execution as “unjust" and "barbaric”.

    “Zam exposed the brutality and corruption of the regime, which has killed or arrested more than 860 journalists in its 41-year reign of terror", Pompeo tweeted.

    Biden, who oversaw the formation of the JCPOA as vice president to US President Barack Obama, has stressed that he wants to pursue as lifting of sanctions, hoping to see Iran comply with its obligations to restrict the development of nuclear material, and the US re-sign the JCPOA.

    The Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018, claiming that it was "unfair" to the United States and that Iran was in breach of its enrichment restrictions, despite analysis from within the US government and the EU confirming a total compliance on the part of Tehran.


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