Video surfaces of Biden saying Iran nuclear deal is ‘dead’; White House doesn’t deny

Clip from November shows US president telling activists who pulled him aside in California that he won’t declare publicly that deal is dead; Bennett takes credit for development

US President Joe Biden speaks during a Hanukkah holiday reception at the White House in Washington, December 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
US President Joe Biden speaks during a Hanukkah holiday reception at the White House in Washington, December 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — US President Joe Biden said last month that the multilateral agreement with Iran to limit its nuclear program was “dead,” but that he would not announce this publicly, according to a video that surfaced on Tuesday.

The video, which appears genuine and was apparently taken on November 3 during Biden’s visit to California, shows him being asked by a woman to announce that the 2015 deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is no longer in effect.

“President Biden, could you please announce that the JCPOA is dead,” the woman, who appears to wear a hair ribbon bearing Iran’s flag colors, asks as Biden passes by, shaking hands.

“No,” Biden replies.

“Why not?” the woman retorts.

“It is dead, but we are not going to announce it,” the US leader said. “Long story.”

The woman, and others next to her, urge him to not make deals with Tehran’s government.

“They don’t represent us,” she said.

“They are not our government,” another added.

“I know they don’t represent you. But they will have a nuclear weapon,” Biden says, as the video clip ends.

Biden’s comments, which the White House did not deny, came as Iran has not bowed to months of pressure to accept the final stipulations of an agreement to revive the JCPOA, which was abandoned by his predecessor Donald Trump in 2018.

Talks to revive the deal have been ongoing in Vienna since April 2021, and at one point early this year Iran and Washington appeared extremely close to a deal.

Iran’s Governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency Kazem Gharib Abadi, Political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran Abbas Araghchi, and Deputy Secretary General and Political Director of the European External Action Service Enrique Mora stand in front of the ‘Grand Hotel Vienna’ where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, on June 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

Since then there has not been any progress, and the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned in September that the parties were actually “diverging.”

Asked about the video, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said nobody was questioning its authenticity.

He said Washington still wants to restore the JCPOA, but that doing so is not the priority, given the Ukraine war.

“The president’s comments are very much in line with everything we’ve been saying about the JCPOA, which is just not our focus right now,” Kirby told reporters.

“There is no progress happening with respect to the Iran deal now. We don’t anticipate any progress anytime in the near future,” he said.

“We simply don’t see a deal coming together anytime soon, while Iran continues to kill its own citizens and is selling UAVs to Russia,” he said, making references to Tehran’s campaign to repress months-long demonstrations over its treatment of women, and to Tehran’s supplying attack drones to Russia for use in Ukraine.

US President Joe Biden meets Prime Minister Naftali Bennett in the Oval Office of the White House, August 27, 2021, in Washington. (AP/Evan Vucci)

Former prime minister Naftali Bennett said Biden’s remarks represented a “tremendous achievement” for the outgoing Israeli government, which he led from June 2021 to June 2022.

“Quietly and wisely through a series of diplomatic and other actions, we managed to stop the return to the nuclear agreement without creating a rift with the US,” Bennett tweeted, in a subtle knock at incoming prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who feuded intensely with former US president Barack Obama’s administration over the latter’s effort to sign the nuclear deal in 2015.

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