Iran’s foreign minister tweeted Tuesday that Tehran was closely watching the behavior of US President Joe Biden after the latest US sanctions imposed last week.
"The White House calls for negotiations with Iran and claims to be ready to return to the JCPOA,” wrote Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, referring to Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which the US left in 2018.
“Yet it simultaneously imposes new sanctions on Iranian individuals and entities,” the foreign minister continued. “We are closely examining Mr. Biden's behavior.”
Iran has long argued that the onus for reviving the JCPOA lies with the US as the party that left it. Washington has said its own return should be negotiated alongside agreement as to how Iran reduces its nuclear program, which it has expanded and refined since 2019.
Talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the JCPOA – with remaining world powers and Iran participating formally and the US indirectly – began in April but were suspended in June by Iran saying that its new president Ebrahim Raisi (Raeesi) needed time for transition. But it is now clear that Tehran has been delaying it return trying to adopt a tougher posture.
In another tweet Tuesday, Amir-Abdollahian reiterated that negotiations should not be "talking for the sake of talking, but to achieve tangible results." Amir-Abdollahian suggested Monday that the US could simply lift sanctions incompatible with the JCPOA through executive action, the means used by previous president Donald Trump to impose them.
On Monday Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said Tehran was waiting for Washington to "take action" and that the latest US sanctions, related to Iran's drone program, highlighted contradictions in White House behavior. The spokesman said the JCPOA could be revived "very quickly" if the US lifted all sanctions imposed by Trump.
Another pressing issue is a request from Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for an urgent meeting in Tehran to discuss IAEA access to the Karaj site, near Tehran, where Iran makes centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium. Tehran has not allowed agency access on the grounds it is carrying out a security investigation after a drone attack in June.
Amir-Abdollahian has been quarantined since Monday due to coronavirus infection and the foreign minister spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh has said his schedule of programs has changed but his general condition is good and he is doing his daily work in quarantine.
While some social media users have pointed out that Amir-Abdollahian did not wear a mask in public and have suggested that his Covid infection may be due to using the homegrown Barakat coronavirus vaccine, some journalists and social media users have suggested that the foreign minister's illness may be an excuse to delay Grossi’s looming visit to Tehran and his team's return to nuclear talks.
"What a time for Amir-Abdollahian to have a Covid infection! Exactly on time!," Saeed Maleki, an independent journalist tweetedwhile another user tweeted that the foreign minister's illness and change of programs was similar to Iranian athletes' excuses to avoid competing against Israeli rivals in international competitions.
In interview with Euronews Thursday Grossi said he hoped to visit Tehran "in the near future" and meet with Raisi. Amir-Abdollahian referred to the visit as “certain” but said the date was “not important.”
For weeks Tehran has said that while it considers when it should resume talks, the US should as a goodwill measure waive the threat of punitive action against third parties to allow them to transfer $10 billion owed to Iran.