Democratic U.S. presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden. (Reuters)

January 12, 2021

Concerns have been rising in the United States that President-elect Joe Biden may lift economic sanctions off Iran before it returns to the 2015 nuclear deal and stops its violations of the pact, known as the JCPOA.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed on Saturday Tehran’s threat to expel International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors, describing it as a form of extortion of the international community and threat to regional security.

Iran will expel United Nations nuclear watchdog inspectors unless US sanctions are lifted by a Feb. 21 deadline set by the hardline-dominated parliament, a lawmaker said on Saturday.

Parliament passed a law in November that obliges the government to halt inspections of its nuclear sites by the IAEA and step up uranium enrichment beyond the limit set under the nuclear deal if sanctions are not eased.

Iran’s Guardian Council watchdog body approved the law on Dec. 2 and the government has said it will implement it.

“According to the law, if the Americans do not lift financial, banking and oil sanctions by Feb. 21, we will definitely expel the IAEA inspectors from the country and will definitely end the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol,” said parliamentarian Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani.

“Iran’s threat goes much further than violating the JCPOA. Iran has a legal treaty obligation to allow IAEA inspector access pursuant to Iran’s NPT-required safeguards agreement. Violating those obligations would thus go beyond Iran’s past actions inconsistent with its JCPOA nuclear commitments,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“Every nation, not only the United States, will attach great importance to Iran’s compliance with these obligations. Nuclear brinksmanship will not strengthen Iran’s position, but instead lead to further isolation and pressure,” he warned.

“This threat follows on the heels of the Iranian regime announcing it has resumed 20% uranium enrichment at Fordow, the fortified, underground facility Iran originally constructed in secret, further breaching its nuclear pact. The world’s top sponsor of terrorism should not be allowed to enrich uranium at any level,” Pompeo urged.

“The United States fully supports the IAEA’s continued professional and independent verification and monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program. Iran’s expulsion of international inspectors must be met by universal condemnation,” he demanded.

Iran last week said it had resumed 20% uranium enrichment at an underground nuclear facility, breaching the nuclear pact with major powers and possibly complicating efforts by Biden to rejoin the deal.

Iran began violating the accord in 2019 in response to President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from it in 2018 and the reimposition of US sanctions that had been lifted under the deal. Tehran often says it can quickly reverse its breaches if Washington’s sanctions are removed.

Meanwhile, Biden is being heavily criticized for his plan to return to the nuclear deal.

He had previously said that he would seek to reach a new agreement based on the 2015 accord. The new deal would tighten and prolong nuclear restrictions, as well as address Tehran’s missile program. He had also pledged to tackle Iran’s human rights record and destabilizing regional activity that are “threatening our friends and partners in the region.”

The president-elect, however, believes that the only way to hold negotiations on new stipulations first demands a return to the old nuclear pact.

Iran’s recent declaration on increasing its nuclear enrichment, threat to expel IAEA inspectors and capture of a South Korean vessel and escalation of harassment in the Gulf and incitement of its militias in Iraq are all part of efforts to pressure Biden to yield to its demands to return to the accord, which it seems certain he will do.

Observers believe that Biden’s agreement to ease sanctions that are stifling its regime will be a capitulation to its blackmail and abandonment of Washington’s most important form of pressure. The capitulation will prevent Biden from achieving his declared goal of an improved long-term nuclear deal.

Iranian parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf said Sunday that the nuclear deal “was not sacred to us.”

“It was accepted by Iran on the condition that sanctions would be lifted,” he remarked.

Therefore, according to the official, the return of the United States to the JCPOA is “not important” for Iran, but “the actual lifting of sanctions is.”

He said that Iran will consider the sanctions lifted when it can sell its oil, use its revenue through official banking mechanisms to meet the people’s demands and Iranian businessmen are able to do business with foreign partners.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on Friday Tehran was in no rush for the United States to rejoin a nuclear deal, but that sanctions must be lifted immediately.

“We are not insisting nor in a hurry for the US to return to the deal,” Khamenei said. “But what is logical is our demand, is the lifting of the sanctions. These brutal sanctions must be lifted immediately.”

In a report last week, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a pro-Trump conservative institution, said: “Five years ago, nearly every Republican in the US Congress—and many leading Democrats including Senators Charles Schumer, Bob Menendez and Joe Manchin—opposed the Iran deal for good reasons.”

“The agreement set expiration dates on key restrictions, ruled out on-demand inspections, and let Iran maintain its nuclear enrichment capabilities. It didn’t address the regime’s accelerating missile program, gave Tehran the financial resources to sponsor regional aggression and terrorism, and ignored its egregious abuse of human rights,” it added.

“The obvious question, then, is this: If Obama contends US sanctions pressure was necessary to produce an agreement as deeply flawed as the Iran nuclear deal, how could Biden ever negotiate far more restrictions on Iran with far less economic leverage?” it wondered.

 Asharq Al-Awsat

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.