Iran could have ended US sanctions before even negotiations began in April 2021, if parliament had not intervened, former president Hassan Rouhani said Friday.
A brief overview of Rouhani’s remarks were carried by Aftab News website in Tehran.
Rouhani who was meeting with former officials and aides in his office in Tehran on the occasion of Eid Ghadir, said his administration could have removed US sanctions in 2021, in the Iranian month of Esfand (February 21-March 20). He added that “unfortunately” the parliament passed the ‘Strategic Action to Eliminate Sanctions and Defend Iranian Nation's Interests’ bill on December 1, 2020,
The bill, adopted by the hardliner-dominated parliament, boosted uranium enrichment, limited nuclear inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), demanding the removal of all sanctions.
The February-March date Rouhani mentioned as the time when his administration could have lifted United States’ sanctions predates the start of negotiations on April 7, 2021, in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear deal known as the JCPOA.
If Rouhani’s claim is true, it means that his government had already reached an agreement with President Joe Biden’s administration, which had just assumed office, which in turn could mean that some sort of negotiation might have taken place even before Biden took office.
The parliament’s bill that Rouhani referred to was adopted as a reaction to the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh a few days earlier, presumably by Israel, but in fact the outlines of the law had already been proposed on November 4, one day after the US presidential election.
During Rouhani’s eight-year, two-term presidency, hardliners loyal to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei persistently criticized him for the talks that led to the signing of the JCPOA in 2015, although without Khamenei’s blessing no agreement would have never materialized.
The criticism continued and intensified after former President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in May 2018 and imposed sanctions on Iran.
With the election of hardliner Ebrahim Raisi in June 2021, Iran suspended the Vienna talks for five months and when they resumed in November an agreement remained elusive until another suspension in March 2022, which still continues. The prospects for a deal have diminished, as Iran demands the removal of all post-2018 sanctions, including terrorism-related designations.
Rouhani has rarely responded to criticisms by hardliners over the nuclear issue and Iran’s economic crisis since he left office in August 2021.
Although some ‘reformist’ and former politicians and even senior clerics call for an agreement to lift the sanctions and ease hardship for the people, no one dares to say that Khamenei makes all decisions over key foreign policy and nuclear issues.
Rouhani told his former colleagues during the Friday meeting that he hopes the negotiations to revive the JCPOA will succeed. He added, “We have many enemies in the world and in the region and internal disagreements and divisions is not in the interest of anyone. We all have to help the government.”