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Iran nuclear deal

Iran reacts to US talks offer: Lift sanctions before we reverse nuclear actions

Published: Updated:

Iran will “immediately reverse” nuclear actions once the United States lifts its sanctions, the Minister of Foreign Affairs said on Friday, after Washington announced it was ready to return to talks with Tehran over the abandoned 2015 nuclear deal.

US President Joe Biden’s administration said on Thursday it was ready to revive talks of restoring the Iran nuclear deal which former President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018.

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Biden reversed Trump’s determination that all UN sanctions against Iran had been restored. And the State Department eased stringent restrictions on the domestic travel of Iranian diplomats in New York.

Iran’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Friday the US should “unconditionally and effectively lift all sanctions imposed, re-imposed or re-labeled by Trump” and only then would Tehran “immediately reverse all remedial measures.”

Earlier Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his British, French and German counterparts had urged Iran to allow continued United Nations nuclear inspections and stop nuclear activities that have no credible civilian use. They warned that Iran’s actions could threaten delicate efforts to bring the US back into the 2015 deal and end sanctions damaging Iran’s economy.

“The E3 and the United States are united in underlining the dangerous nature of a decision to limit IAEA access, and urge Iran to consider the consequences of such grave action, particularly at this time of renewed diplomatic opportunity,” the ministers said in a joint statement.

Iran had said on Monday it informed the International Atomic Energy Agency of its plan to end sweeping inspection powers given to the agency under the 2015 nuclear deal.

The ministers also expressed concern and condemned Iran’s latest moves to enrich uranium up to 20 percent and produce uranium metal.

“These activities have no credible civil justification. Uranium metal production is a key step in the development of a nuclear weapon,” they said.

Iran has long denied striving to develop nuclear weapons through uranium enrichment, though its intelligence minister said last week persistent Western pressure could push Tehran to fight back like a “cornered cat” and seek nuclear weapons.

The Iranian regime is likely to try to get more concessions from Washington before taking any real action, especially in light of growing pressure at home due to economic hardship worsened by the US sanctions.

“Tehran urgently needs sanctions.. Iran also holds its presidential elections in June 2021 and, for the outgoing Rouhani administration, securing a quick return to the deal would build back lost economic and political confidence, and perhaps also impact the election outcome,” according to Sanam Vakil, Senior Research Fellow at Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had said in a speech on Wednesday: “We’ve heard many promises which were broken and contradicted in practice. Mere words don't help. This time only action! Action! If the Islamic Republic sees action from the other side, it will act too.”

Some hardliners are already crediting what they describe as the Iranian regime’s perseverance in the face of US pressure for the recent Biden administration policy announcements.

"They have reversed some measures ... It is a defeat for America ... but we are waiting to see whether there will be action on lifting sanctions," state media quoted Tabriz city's Friday prayer leader Mohammadali Ale-Hashem as saying.

- With The Associated Press, Reuters

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