US President Joe Biden’s administration has no plans to take additional steps on Iran before diplomatic conversation, spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday aboard Air Force One.
The State Department said on Thursday it was ready to revive talks of restoring the Iran nuclear deal which former President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018.
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.”
Iran has set a deadline of next week for Biden to lift sanctions reimposed by Trump, or it will halt snap IAEA inspections under the deal, which lifted sanctions in return for curbs on Iran's nuclear program. Next week is also when the IAEA is expected to issue a quarterly report on Iran's nuclear activities.
Reuters reported in an exclusive that the IAEA found uranium particles at two Iranian sites it inspected after months of stonewalling and is preparing to rebuke Tehran for failing to explain, possibly complicating US efforts to revive nuclear diplomacy.
Iran has long denied striving to develop nuclear weapons through uranium enrichment, though its intelligence minister recently said 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 Reuters