Agreement on a return to the 2015 nuclear deal can come "very quickly" if the US lifts all sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, Iran said Monday.
Speaking at a regular press briefing, foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the US should return to Vienna talks with a "simultaneous and effective lifting of all sanctions" and a "proper implementation plan…[abandon] its previous policy of maintain[ing] parts of the Trump sanctions against Iran, and… [stop] wasting Iran and the 4+1 countries' time and energy with inconsistent arguments to keep parts of the sanctions."
Talks in Vienna over reviving the 2015 deal – the JCPOA, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – began in April, but Iran suspended its participation in June. The US took part indirectly in formal talks between the five remaining JCPOA members, China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia, and the United Kingdom.
The ‘4+1’ refers to four permanent members of the United National security council plus Germany, as the original ‘P5+1’ fragmented when the US in 2018 left the JCPOA – signed between Iran and the ‘P5+1’ – before imposing ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions.
The US has said it will lift only sanctions specifically related to the JCPOA, but Iran has argued that sanctions levied by the Trump administration ostensibly on ‘non-nuclear’ grounds were deliberately and openly designed to wreck prospects for reviving the agreement. But some of these sanctions are related to concrete and important matters, such as Iran’s support for militant groups and human rights violations.
There have also been reports that the US has sought additional conditions, including an Iranian commitment to a ‘follow-on’ agreement over defense and security. Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said Sunday Russia insisted on the revival of the original agreementwith no such add-ons.
Waiting for US action
"We are waiting for Washington to take action," Khatibzadeh said. Stressing Iran’s commitment to the JCPOA multilateral forum, the spokesman said that Iran had not held any "direct or indirect talks" with the US since shortly after Washington left the deal in 2018. He insisted that no talks "in any shape or format" would take place while the US continues sanctions that included punitive actions against third parties, including US allies, trading with Iran.
“The imposition of new sanctions exposes the quite contradictory behavior of the White House,” Khatibzadeh said in reference to Washington's most recent sanctions, related to Iran's drone program.
US President Joe Biden said Sunday the US would “respond to their actions against interests of the US,” referring to the use of what Washington said was an Iranian-made drone in the October 20 attack by militia on US troops in Syria.
Drones are regularly used by Iranian proxies, including Hezbollah and Ansar Allah in Yemen.
Welcoming US goodwill
Reiterating that Iran will finalize a date for resumption of talks in Vienna this week "after conferring with all parties involved including China", Khatibzadeh said Iran welcomed the recent message of US "goodwill" in an E3 statement issued Sunday by Germany, France and the UK Sunday after meetings on the margins of the G20 summit in Rome.
"We hope that what has been referred to as goodwill of the other parties in the statement happens," Khatibzadeh said.
The E3 statement referred explicitly to Iranian concerns, shared by other JCPOA signatories, that the US might again abandon the agreement. The E3 welcomed a commitment from Biden to “to stay in full compliance, so long as Iran does the same.”
While the official news agency (IRNA) highlighted Khatibzadeh's remarks about "Iran awaiting practical action from US" in its headline, the English website of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC)-affiliated Fars news agency chose "Talks between Iran, US Inconceivable until Removal of Sanctions."
Principlist media was quick to downplay any advantages in the US returning to its JCPOA commitments. In a commentary Monday, Javan newspaper wrote Monday said whether the US did or did not return to the JCPOA had no attraction or relevance for Iran and enumerated conditions Iran required for continuing the Vienna talks.
‘Deceptive’ American terms
"Iran's evident wish is implementation of the JCPOA, precisely and without preconditions and full and simultaneous lifting (not suspension or any other deceptive American term) of unjust US and European sanctions," Javan wrote.
Javan also added that Iran would accept the nuclear limits set by the JCPOA, which it has breached since 2019, once it received "precise, valid and acceptable guarantees that the West will not reimpose sanctions under any other pretext and that there was "logical verification for at least six months" that sanctions had been lifted as required.
The newspaper also suggested the UN Security Council guaranteed to sanction the US and Europe if they again failed to uphold the JCPOA, which the council endorsed in 2015.