Biden’s envoy says US not rushing to nuclear deal before Iran elections

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US President Joe Biden’s administration will not rush to renew the abandoned 2015 nuclear deal with Iran before the latter’s June elections which are widely expected to see a rise of a more hardline president in Tehran, a US envoy said.

“We don't intend to base the pace of our discussions on the Iranian elections – the pace will be determined by how far we can get, consistent with defending US national security interests," Rob Malley, the State Department’s Iran envoy, told Axios in an interview released on Wednesday.

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“In other words, we won't rush or slow things because of the Iranian elections.”

Washington and Tehran are locked in a standoff over reviving nuclear talks.

Since taking office in January, Biden has taken steps, perceived as extending an olive branch to Iran, to revive talks over the nuclear deal which has unraveled since his predecessor Donald Trump pulled the US out of the agreement 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.

Yet, Tehran adamantly demanded that all Trump-era sanctions on Iran be lifted before taking any real action to return to the deal.

The Iranian regime is trying 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 relief... 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 Program, Chatham House.

However, the transition to a more hardline president in Iran from sitting President Hassan Rouhani, who staked his legacy on the 2015 nuclear deal, is not likely to change Tehran’s stance on talks with Washington.

Iran’s nuclear policy is decided by the country’s top authority, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and not the president or the government.

- With Agencies

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