In a sharp repudiation of the “maximum pressure campaign” of former President Donald Trump that aimed to isolate the Islamic Republic, the Biden administration says it is willing to enter talks with Iran and world powers to negotiate a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement.
At the United Nations, the government also took two steps to return politics to what it was before Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018. Iranian hawks have immediately questioned the joint actions and are likely to attract concern from Israel and the Gulf Arab states.
In addition to signalling a willingness to speak with Iran on Thursday, the administration also reversed the determination of Trump that all U.N. Penalties against Iran were reinstated. And, it relaxed tight limits on Iranian diplomats’ domestic travel posted to the United Nations.
Following talks between State Secretary Antony Blinken and his British, French and German counterparts, the State Department announced the moves as Biden prepares to engage, although virtually, in his first major international events with world leaders.
The announcement came a day before Biden was expected to address the leaders of the Community of Seven Developed Democracies and the annual Munich Security Conference later in the day. Both are expected to address Biden’s contribution to multilateral diplomacy and his willingness to reverse the harm that could have been caused by Trump’s positions over the previous four years.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that the U.S. will consider a European Union invitation to attend a meeting of the leaders, the five permanent U.N. members. In the initial nuclear accord, the Security Council and Germany, along with Iran.
“The United States would accept an invitation from the High Representative of the European Union to attend the P5+1 and Iran meetings to discuss a diplomatic way forward with regard to Iran’s nuclear programme,” he said. Since Trump withdrew from the agreement and started slowly ramping up sanctions on Iran, the U.S. has not attended a meeting of those members.
Such an invitation has not yet been given, however, following Blinken’s talks with the British, French and German foreign ministers, one is expected shortly.
In the meantime, the administration told the Security Council at the United Nations that it had withdrawn Trump’s invocation of the so-called ‘snapback’ process in September 2020, in which it maintained that all U.N. sanctions against Iran had been re-imposed. A conventional weapons embargo against Iran that was due to expire was included in those sanctions.
The commitment of Trump was fiercely challenged by almost all other U.N. Members and left the U.S. separated from the body of the planet. Therefore, it is unlikely that the reversal would have any immediate practical effects other than putting the United States back into line with the stance of the vast majority of the United Nations. Members, including some of its most proximate allies.
“Acting U.S. United Nations Ambassador Richard Mills sent a letter to the Security Council stating that the U.S. “withdraws” three letters from the Trump administration resulting in its announcement on Sept. 19 that the U.S. had re-imposed the U.N. Sanctions against Tehran because of its “significant non-compliance” with its obligations.
The rest of the Security Council and the world had ignored Trump’s decision, and the vast majority of members of the 15-nation council had deemed the action unconstitutional because the U.S. was no longer part of the nuclear agreement.
At the same time, officials said the administration has eased the travel of Iranian diplomats accredited to the United Nations to extremely strict limits. The Trump administration placed draconian limitations on them, which effectively limited them to the United Nations. The U.N. mission and New York-based headquarters building.
The measures were immediately denounced by the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas. In an obvious effort to re-enter the flawed Iran agreement, it is about the Biden Administration already making compromises,” he said.” “For President Biden, the Trump Administration created leverage on Iran; we should not squander that progress.”
Blinken and his European counterparts had urged Iran earlier Thursday to allow continued nuclear inspections by the United Nations and avoid nuclear activities that have no credible civilian use. They cautioned that the actions of Iran could disrupt critical attempts to bring the U.S. back into the 2015 agreement and end sanctions that damage the economy of Iran.
Iran “plays with fire,” said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who took part in talks with his British and French counterparts in Paris on Thursday. Blinken had joined via videoconference.
Iran has said that it would suspend some of the inspections of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency next week if the West fails to fulfil its own obligations under the 2015 agreement. The accord has been unravelling since Trump took the U.S. out of the deal.
Blinken reaffirmed that “if Iran returns to strict compliance with its obligations…” According to a joint statement after the Thursday meeting that reflected closer trans-Atlantic positions on Iran after President Joe Biden took office, the United States will do the same.
The diplomats noted “the dangerous nature of the decision to restrict access to the IAEA and urged Iran, in particular at this time of renewed diplomatic opportunity, to consider the consequences of such grave action.”
Iran’s decision to manufacture up to 20 percent enriched uranium and uranium metal has “no credible” civilian use, they said.
The 2015 agreement is aimed at preventing the production of nuclear weapons by Iran. Tehran denies that it wants an arsenal of this sort.
Maas told reporters in Paris, “We are the ones who have kept this agreement alive in recent years, and now it’s about supporting the United States in taking the road back to the agreement.”
“Anything but helpful are the steps that have been taken in Tehran and could be taken in the coming days. They are endangering the journey of the Americans back into this agreement. The more pressure is applied, the more difficult it would be to find a solution politically,” he said.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that Iran’s threats are “very worrying,” stressing the need to “re-engage diplomatically to restrain Iran, but also bring it back into compliance.”
The diplomats also voiced concern about abuses of human rights in Iran and its ballistic missile programme.
In Iran, President Hassan Rouhani expressed hope Thursday that, according to state television, the Biden administration would rejoin the agreement and lift the U.S. sanctions that Washington re-imposed under Trump.
Tehran has used its nuclear deal breaches to place pressure on the remaining signatories, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China, to provide Iran with more incentives to compensate for the debilitating sanctions.
This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the President of the European Council talked to Rouhani to try to put an end to the diplomatic standoff. The IAEA head is scheduled to travel to Iran this weekend to find a solution that will allow the agency to continue its inspections.