A top Iranian diplomat has indicated that the US needs to take steps now, if it wants to ease relations with Iran, to rejoin the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
In an exclusive interview with USA Today, Majid Takht-Ravanchi, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, stated that the Biden administration “must act quickly” before the opportunity to return to the 2015 agreement is no longer an option.
“The window is closing” for the Biden team to act, the official underscored.
Iran’s parliament established a February 21 deadline for the Biden administration to lift all US sanctions that were either reimposed as a result of the US withdrawal from the JCPOA, or penalties implemented as part of the Trump administration’s so-called 'maximum pressure' campaign against the Middle Eastern country.
Takht-Ravanchi explained that if the US fails to act in time, UN nuclear inspectors would not necessarily be ousted from Iran, but access to the nation’s nuclear sites would no longer be provided on a voluntary basis.
"We have said time and again that if the US decides to go back to its international commitments and lift all the illegal sanctions against Iran, we will go back to the full implementation of JCPOA, which will benefit all sides," he told the outlet.
Touching on previous statements made by top Iranian officials, Takht-Ravanchi reiterated that “the party that needs to change course is the United States,” and that Iran has no intention of accepting a “renegotiation of the nuclear deal.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif previously noted in an opinion piece published in the Foreign Affairs magazine last week that the US could not simply call for a new nuclear pact and “expect to have its way with Iran.”
While relations between the US and Iran were not ideal at the start of the Trump administration, tensions among the two nations reached a fever peak after Trump ordered a drone assassination strike near Iraq’s Baghdad International Airport that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force and others.
The Trump administration only continued to increase tensions by tacking on new sanctions against Iranian entities and officials, with the US blacklisting two foundations in the final days of the Trump White House.
Although Biden has expressed that he intends to return to the JCPOA, it does not appear that the newly sworn-in president will be able to simply take up the old reins tossed aside by Trump.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a Senate panel ahead of his confirmation that the Biden team was eyeing the start of a completely new deal that would seek signers from Israel and the Gulf states, both long-time foes of Iran. However, it is unclear how soon a new agreement could develop, considering that Blinken indicated the US to be a “long way” from cutting such a deal.
Blinken doubled down to reporters on Wednesday that the US would only return to the JCPOA if Iran acted first and came "back into full compliance" with the 2015 deal's obligations, namely its levels of enriched uranium.