The nuclear deal table for Iran is still vacant. Despite the fact that former US President Donald Trump in 2018 pulled out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, President Joe Biden appears resolute to forge ahead; but Tehran seems to have shifted base. And to underscore her commitment to renewed negotiations, President Biden offered to allow Iran to frozen assets abroad to offset some subsequent sanctions imposed by Trump, but Iran just sniffed at the gesture in apparent indifference.
Since April in Vienna, Washington has been discussing with Tehran to reconsider a nuclear deal in consideration of further reliefs, but Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remains noncommittal. In fact, Iran’s deputy foreign minister in early July made it clear that his country will not consider the issue until Ebrahim Raisi – a hardliner – is sworn into office as president on August 5.
While the United States finds this development discomfiting, it demonstrates that Iran is not hiding her disdain for Washington’s nuclear negotiations. Iran does not want her nuclear program boxed – and she’s not showing interest in biting the dangling economic carrot before her. Biden is still optimistic that Iran will bite, but US officials are losing faith in the administration’s efforts.
It is obvious however that Biden is coming clean with Tehran: suspend or roll back your nuclear program according to JCPOA regulations, and I’ll revoke harmful sanctions imposed by Trump. But the theocratic Islamic republic wants more than that: they want all military and economic sanctions imposed before and after the Trump administration revoked. But unless Iran comes back to the nuclear deal table, Biden does not want to back down just yet.
As if that is not enough, Tehran also demands that the United States will never withdraw from any agreement again without the endorsement of the United Nations. What this means is that an agreement signed by one presidential administration will remain binding on subsequent administrations – a situation that is not only unimaginable but also unconstitutional for the US.
The leverage Iran is aiming for is definitely unacceptable and harmful to US interests and foreign policies.
Ultimately, Iran is making it nearly impossible to return to the JCPOA negotiation table – and has even escalated its nuclear program in total defiance. Its program is exceeding the terms of JCPOA and getting more opaque for international scrutiny. If the Biden administration would make headway with Iran, they must get Khamenei and the country’s Supreme National Security Council to play ball – something that is highly unlikely to happen in record time.