Tehran Suggests US Congress Commits To JCPOA As A Guarantee

Wednesday, 02/16/2022
Maryam Sinaee

A British Iranian journalist and political analyst and a regular contributor to Iran International

Tehran has proposed that the United States Congress declare support for a revived Iran nuclear deal, Iran’s foreign minister told the Financial Times newspaper.

In an interview published WednesdayHossein Amir-Abdollahian suggested this could meet Iran’s request for guarantees the US would not again renege on the agreement, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

"At least their parliaments or parliament speakers including the US Congress, can declare in the form of a political statement their commitment to the agreement and return to the JCPOA implementation,” the foreign minister said referring to the US and its three Western allies involved in the talks.

Amir-Adollahian said Iran had received "many messages" from Washington requesting direct talks: “Our last response to Americans and intermediaries was: Any direct dialogue, contact and negotiation with the US would have very huge costs for my government.”

Republicans and some Democrats in Congress are opposed to reviving the JCPOA, arguing that it is insufficient to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Only the US Senate has the constitutional right to approve a treaty, and such a statement is hard to imagine coming from the evenly split chamber.

Iran – under both President Ebrahim Raisi and predecessor Hassan Rouhani – has maintained that the US should return to its commitments under the JCPOA, lifting ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions, before it returns to JCPOA structures for discussions.

No surrender

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei − who backed direct talks with the US over Afghanistan, Iraq, in 2000s and negotiating the JCPOA in 2013-15 − said in a January speech that "negotiations with the enemy at a certain juncture” did not necessitate "surrender.” He had explicitly banned direct talks with the US in November 2018.

There is disagreement in Tehran over whether talking to the US is a pragmatic matter of national interest or a cast-iron principle. The Kayhan newspaper, whose editor Hossain Shariatmadari is a veteran opponent of any nuclear talks, last month criticized both Amir-Abdollahian and Ali Shamkhani,Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, for floating the possibility.

In a front-page piece January 26 Kayhan detected the "enemy's trick to evade lifting the sanctions” and offered "brotherly advice to the foreign minister and security chief" not to be misled by a mirage.

Saeed Jalili, another JCPOA opponent and like Rouhani a nominee of Khamenei on the SNSC, reportedly earlier this month wrote a 200-page letter to the leader explaining his opposition to continuing talks with world power in Vienna aimed at reviving the JCPOA. In a commentary February 1 the reformist Shargh newspaper claimed Jalili had proposed Iran boosting uranium enrichment to 90 percent– considered ‘weapons grade’ – as a way to achieve the ending of ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions.

People’s interests

While Raisi said during the June presidential election that he would back restoring the JCPOA if it were “in the people’s interests,” some of those who supported him oppose the agreement, which limited Iran’s nuclear program and allowed intrusive United Nations inspections.

On Monday Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman said Tehran was awaiting the US President Joe Biden's "political decision" and US “concrete guarantees” over restoring the agreement. Biden, like Raisi, faces domestic opposition, particularly from Republicans who opposed the JCPOA and supported former president Donald Trump’s decision in 2018 to leave it and launch ‘maximum pressure.’

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