Remote duel between the United States and Iran over the lifting of sanctions

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Joe Biden warned that he would not take the first step towards Iran by lifting US sanctions, as Iranian leaders demanded on Sunday, in a duel from a distance which presages a resumption of very difficult dialogue.

Asked by the CBS channel on the possibility of lifting the sanctions to convince Tehran to return to the negotiating table in order to save the Iran nuclear deal, the new president of the United States clearly replied: “No”.

And to the journalist who asked him if the Iranians should “first stop enriching uranium”, he replied with a nod of the head, according to an excerpt from this interview, the entirety of which was to be broadcast on Sunday after- midday.

The United States and the other great powers (China, Russia, Germany, France and the United Kingdom) concluded in 2015, after long and difficult negotiations, an agreement with Iran supposed to prevent it from acquiring the bomb. atomic.

But Donald Trump withdrew Washington from this agreement three years later, judging that it was insufficient on the nuclear level and also to counter the other “destabilizing activities” of the Islamic Republic. The ex-president reinstated and then tightened all the sanctions against Iran that had been lifted in exchange for its nuclear commitments, and Tehran in turn began to free itself from those restrictions.

Joe Biden has vowed to return to the 2015 deal, on condition that Iran first resigns to its commitments.

Since he entered the White House on January 20, the international community has been waiting to know how he intends to keep his promise, when the Iranians demand a prior lifting of all sanctions.

“Final policy”

This dialogue of the deaf continued on Sunday.

The US president has been intractable on the way forward, and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has also stuck to his positions.

“If they want Iran to return to its commitments (…) the United States must fully lift the sanctions, in practice and not on paper,” Ayatollah said in a televised speech on Sunday. “We will then check whether in fact the sanctions have been lifted correctly”, he warned, assuring that this is “the final policy of the Islamic Republic”.

For now, therefore, the two enemy countries are watching each other and raising the stakes.

The new US government is deliberately vague on how it intends to proceed. So much so that Joe Biden completely obscured this issue Thursday in his first foreign policy speech, even though it was presented by his team as a “crucial priority”.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to him on Friday with his German, French and British counterparts to present a common front with the three European signatories who have always denounced the unilateral withdrawal of Donald Trump. And he appointed an emissary in charge of Iran, Rob Malley.

Behind the scenes, and while waiting for a first direct contact between Washington and Tehran, major maneuvers have therefore been launched to save the nuclear agreement.

The head of Iranian diplomacy Mohammad Javad Zarif has reaffirmed in recent days that the Americans must first “demonstrate their good faith”. But he also suggested that the Europeans could “choreograph” the concessions of the two countries, which could themselves be “synchronized” or “coordinated”.

Time is running out on all sides, especially as on February 21, Iran could restrict the access of international inspectors to its sites, a red line that risks pointing all the other signatories.

Mohammad Javad Zarif tried Sunday to put this risk into perspective, while using it as a lever to put pressure on Washington.

“This would not mean that the door would be closed completely, because if the United States and its partners come back to the agreement, and fully respect it, Iran will reverse these decisions,” he said on the channel. CNN. “But it is obvious that it would be much easier for the United States to meet its commitments as quickly as possible,” he added.

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