Iran, US stalemate: Both say other must make first move

Iran, U.S. both insist the other must take the first step to return to the nuclear deal.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

The head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday both said the other country had to take the first step for an American return to the Iran nuclear deal.

In Tehran, Iran’s top nuclear official Ali Akbar Salehi said it was up to the U.S. President Joe Biden to make the first move.

“Joe Biden must learn a lesson after noticing that 42 years of pressures and threats by former U.S. administrations against Iran have failed and have not been able to force the Iranian nation into submission,” Salehi said in comments reported by Iran’s state-run Press TV.

“The United States must know that Iran’s march toward peaceful nuclear energy is unstoppable and this right cannot be ignored,” Salehi added.

On Sunday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said Iran will reverse its decision last month to enrich uranium to 20% purity, a step closer to weapons grade material, only after it verified the U.S. lifted the sanctions.

“Iran will return to its JCPOA obligations once the U.S. fully lifts its sanctions in action and not in words or on paper, and once the sanction relief is verified by Iran,” Khamenei said, referring by the 2015 nuclear deal’s official title of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

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A detailed report published by the Congressional Research Service in November concluded that the sanctions are having a significant effect on Iran.

“There is little dispute that U.S. sanctions imposed during 2011-2015, and since 2018 have taken a substantial toll on Iran’s economy,” the report stated, but admitted that as far as their political effectiveness, the U.S. sanctions have not “necessarily always achieved favorable gradual political change.”

Even though U.S. sanctions do not apply to humanitarian transactions, the CRS report noted that it is difficult to draw any direct relationship between sanctions and Iran’s human rights practices, given that annual human rights reports by the State Department show that there has been virtually no improvement in Iran for years.

In Washington, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. was prepared to deal with Iran only if Tehran first returned to observing the nuclear deal.

“The President’s been very clear about this,” Blinken said in an interview Monday on CNN. “If Iran returns to compliance with its obligations under the nuclear agreement, we would do the same thing, and then we would work with our allies and partners to try to build a longer and stronger agreement and also bring in some of these other issues, like Iran’s missile program, like its destabilizing actions in the region that need to be addressed as well.

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“So the first thing that’s so critical is for Iran to come back into compliance with its obligations. They’re a ways from that. But if they do that, the path of diplomacy is there, and we’re willing to walk it,” Blinken said.