Biden pledges to only leave renewed Iran deal if Tehran clearly violates it

Joint statement by US president and European leaders says if new nuclear deal reached, Washington will ‘stay in full compliance, so long as Iran does the same’

US President Joe Biden addresses the media with President of the European Commission during the G20 of World Leaders Summit on October 31, 2021 at the convention center "La Nuvola" in the EUR district of Rome. (Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)
US President Joe Biden addresses the media with President of the European Commission during the G20 of World Leaders Summit on October 31, 2021 at the convention center "La Nuvola" in the EUR district of Rome. (Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP)

US President Joe Biden has promised that if his administration reenters the Iran nuclear deal, Washington won’t withdraw from the pact unless the Islamic Republic clearly violates its terms.

The pledge was included in a joint statement between Biden and European leaders on Saturday. The US has repeatedly expressed interest in returning to the 2015 agreement — which former president Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018 — if Iran returns to compliance. Washington had not, however, previously detailed its conditions on remaining a party to the accord should it rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the agreement is formally known.

“We welcome President Biden’s clearly demonstrated commitment to return the US to full compliance with the JCPOA and to stay in full compliance, so long as Iran does the same,” the statement read, according to The Guardian.

The statement was issued after a Saturday meeting between Biden, Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron, and Britain’s Boris Johnson on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome.

Biden said that nuclear talks with Iran would resume as he and European leaders warned Tehran that “accelerated” and “provocative” steps it has taken will jeopardize its return to compliance under a 2015 nuclear agreement.

The meeting comes as Iran continues to enrich uranium to near-weapons-grade levels. The leaders are trying to revive the 2015 deal and restore Iran’s program to where it was under the pact, which kept the Islamic Republic at least one year away from the potential to field a nuclear weapon.

In the joint statement issued after the meeting, the leaders expressed their “determination to ensure that Iran can never develop or acquire a nuclear weapon.”

From right, US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pose prior to a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Rome, October 30, 2021. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The leaders shared “our grave and growing concern” that Iran “has accelerated the pace of provocative nuclear steps” after it halted negotiations on a return to the JCPOA.

They also warned that Iran’s nuclear developments and restrictions on international monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency “will jeopardize the possibility of a return to” the deal.

As the leaders posed for photos before the closed-door talks, Biden was asked when he would like the stalled negotiations with Iran to resume.

“They’re scheduled to resume,” he said, in what appeared to be the first public confirmation by the US of a resumption in negotiations.

Iran has yet to commit to a date to return to nuclear talks being held in Vienna but has signaled it will do so next week, with a target of late November for resuming the negotiations. The US and others have expressed skepticism about Iranian intentions.

The UN’s atomic watchdog has said Iran is increasingly in violation of the nuclear deal. The US has participated indirectly in talks aimed at bringing both Washington and Tehran back into compliance. Those talks in Vienna have been on hiatus since June, when hardline Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi took power.

In this photo released by the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a live interview in Tehran, Iran, broadcast on state-run TV on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, and the European Union remain part of the deal.

“We call upon President Raisi to seize this opportunity and return to a good faith effort to conclude our negotiations as a matter of urgency,” the leaders said in their communique. “That is the only sure way to avoid a dangerous escalation, which is not in any country’s interest.”

The four leaders met Saturday while in Rome for the Group of 20 summit, the first stop on Biden’s five-day foreign trip. He’s also attending a UN climate conference in Scotland.

Saturday’s meeting came several days after Ali Bagheri, Iran’s deputy foreign minister and chief negotiator for the talks, tweeted that Iran has agreed to restart negotiations by the end of November. Bagheri said a date to resume talks would be announced soon.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Thursday that the US was still trying to determine whether Iran was serious about returning to the negotiations.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Oct. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

“We have heard positive signals that they are, but I think we have to wait and see when and whether they actually show up at the negotiating table,” he told reporters Thursday aboard Air Force One as Biden flew to Rome.

Sullivan said the leaders would send “clear messages” to Iran that the window for negotiation “is not unlimited.”

“We, of course, retain all other options to be able to deal with this program as necessary,” he said.

Saturday’s meeting came after American officials blamed Iran for a drone attack on a remote US outpost in Syria. Officials said Monday the US believes Iran resourced and encouraged the attack, but that the drones were not launched from Iran.

No deaths or injuries were reported as a result of the attack.

In retaliation, the US Treasury Department on Friday announced new penalties against two senior members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps and two affiliated companies for supplying lethal drones and related material to insurgent groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and Ethiopia.

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