EghtesadOnline: The president of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations said a possible US return to the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers must take place after all sanctions against Iran are lifted because with the sanctions in place, Washington’s return to the deal amounts to “extortion”.
Kamal Kharrazi made the remarks in a recent interview with Khamenei.ir, the official website of the Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.
US President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the nuclear accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and imposed harsh economic sanctions on Iran. The Trump administration also put in place secondary sanctions, targeting those who do business with Iran.
“If the US decides to return to JCPOA without lifting sanctions, this would amount to extortion, because [the US] will put forward a new request for the lifting of every ban,” Kharrazi said.
“Therefore, the correct path for the US to take before returning to the JCPOA is to lift all sanctions imposed in the form of executive orders by the US president, be it nuclear-related [sanctions] or [those sanctions] slapped in the name of terrorism and human rights.”
Following the 2018 US withdrawal from JCPOA, Tehran waited an entire year and then began to scale back its commitments under JCPOA, after the other parties to the deal failed to protect its economic interests.
However, Iranian officials have stated that the move will be reversed as soon as they return to full compliance with the deal and protect Iran’s interests.
Hopes were raised over a possible revival of JCPOA after the Nov. 3 presidential election in the US, in which former vice president, Joe Biden, defeated Trump.
Asked to comment on Iran’s possible response should US President-elect Biden decide to return to JCPOA under the condition that Iran negotiate its missile program and regional activities, Kharrazi said this is also a kind of extortion, because the nuclear pact has a clear text that does not include such issues.
“We agreed to discuss nuclear issues, we reached an agreement and we remained committed to our obligations until they reneged on theirs, and in exchange, we reduced our commitments,” he said, adding that there is nothing more to discuss regarding the already negotiated deal.
On the parliament’s move to adopt a law that tasks the government with scaling up Iran’s nuclear program, Kharrazi, who is a former foreign minister, pointed out that the new law is based on the text of JCPOA.
“Article 36 of JCPOA enables us to reduce our commitments in response to the violation of commitments by the other sides,” he argued.
“This shows that we are serious regarding our commitments, but at the same time, [it shows] that we won’t remain silent in the face of non-compliance of other signatories and that we will defend our rights.”
Early last month, Iranian parliamentarians voted in favor of the Strategic Action Plan to Counter Sanctions, tasking the Iranian administration with suspending more commitments under JCPOA.
The law, among other things, requires the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to produce at least 120 kg of 20% enriched uranium annually and start the installation, gas injection, enrichment and storage of nuclear materials up to an appropriate enrichment degree within three months using at least 1,000 IR-2m centrifuges.
In addition, Kharrazi said the Islamic Republic has proved since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that national interests and independence are the country’s most important priorities, which need to be safeguarded.
“We’ve fought off acts of bullying and pressure,” he said, adding that Tehran will never yield to US pressure to abandon its independence and interests.
The veteran diplomat noted that the US withdrawal from JCPOA inflicted huge losses on Iran.
“They signed a document and they should have remained committed to it, but they violated their commitments. The US withdrew from it and started to impose sanctions. They sanctioned more than 1,500 Iranian companies or individuals, and that does not include [bans on] organizations and other sanctions,” he said.
Kharrazi also highlighted the need for Iran to stand up to such acts of bullying by trying to “neutralize the sanctions”.