Opposing messages by Iran and new US administration promise difficult road ahead for the 2015 nuclear deal.
Tehran, Iran – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has countered signals from the upcoming Joe Biden administration saying “the ball is in Washington’s court”.
The president said during a televised cabinet speech on Wednesday if the new US government places a signature to implement commitments under the United Nations Security Council resolution 2231 – which underpins Iran’s nuclear deal – it will see a signature from Iran.
“If they issue an order, they will see an order issued in Iran, no more. If they effectively implement their commitments, they must know there will be effective implementation of commitments on this side,” Rouhani said.
He said Iran expects the new occupants of the White House to try to “remove all the stains of the past four years, that is if they can be removed”.
“If they show their honesty in action, toward the laws and the resolution that they voted for and commitments they signed on for, naturally we will also implement all our commitments.”
Rouhani’s message seems to be at odds with that of Anthony Blinken, Biden’s choice for secretary of state, who said on Tuesday that Washington would resume compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers if Tehran does so first.
Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “we are a long way from there” and said Biden’s ultimate goal is a deal that would also limit Iran’s missile programme and support for regional proxies, something Iran has rejected.
Outgoing US President Donald Trump in 2018 unilaterally abandoned the nuclear deal, starting a “maximum pressure” campaign of harsh economic sanctions on Iran.
One year after, Iran gradually scaled back its commitments under the deal by stocking more low-enriched uranium, boosting uranium enrichment and installing new centrifuges.
But shortly after top nuclear and military scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was assassinated in late November in an attack Iran blames on Israel, the Iranian parliament passed a law that demanded more breaches of the deal.
Iran has now upped its uranium enrichment to 20 percent and is installing cascades of more advanced centrifuges.
By law, Rouhani’s administration has to restrict International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors’ access to its nuclear sites after February 21 if Biden does not lift sanctions and allow Iran to restart selling its oil.
In a letter to European foreign ministers, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned on Tuesday the nuclear deal is at a “critical juncture”.
“We have seen very concerning developments on the nuclear side as well as new rounds of US sanctions,” he said, adding they risk undermining diplomatic efforts to restore the nuclear deal.
The Trump administration has imposed several new rounds of sanctions on Iran, the latest of which came earlier this week since he was defeated in the November presidential elections.
Rouhani on Wednesday celebrated the end of Trump’s “malevolent rule”.
A “tyrant’s era came to an end and today is the final day of his ominous reign,” he said. “Someone for whom all of his four years bore no fruit other than injustice and corruption and causing problems for his own people and the world.”