The first step is from Biden but Khamenei answers spades and raises the stakes. Are you sure that Tehran still wants JCPOA?

A first concrete opening of the Biden administration to the Iranian regime for a return to the JCPOA, the 2015 agreement on the Tehran nuclear program, arrived yesterday – so sooner than we expected. A double signal somehow solicited by the European countries that are part of the agreement (Germany, France, United Kingdom). The problem, however, is that the Iranian leadership has not responded positively to the same invitation. And on the contrary, as we shall see, it is continuing to up the ante.

The Biden administration has relaxed the restrictions imposed on the movements of Iranian diplomats in New York, where the UN is based, and with a letter from the US ambassador to the UN, Richard Mills, has revoked the communication to the Security Council in the which last September the Trump administration had announced the restoration of all sanctions on Tehran removed with UN resolution 2231 of 2015. Therefore, Washington intends that those sanctions remain lifted.

Furthermore, accepting an EU invitation to that effect, on the eve of the virtual meeting of the G7, the first for the new US president, the State Department announced that the administration is ready to resume talks with representatives of Tehran and the other nations party to the agreement. "The United States accepts the invitation of the EU High Representative to participate in a meeting of the P5 + 1 and Iran to discuss a diplomatic path on the Iranian nuclear program". "We will see what is the best way to get back to talking to each other," spokesman Ned Price explained, reiterating that Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and President Biden are not against dialogue, if Iran keeps its commitments.

The one who is doing everything to save the agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, trying to persuade both sides to send positive signals to the other, is German Chancellor Angela Merkel. "I will strive to bring new momentum to the negotiations," he said yesterday after the virtual G7. “I also spoke with President Rouhani on the phone a few days ago. Everyone agrees that this agreement should have another chance ”. The problem now is "who will take the first step," he added.

In the phone call three days ago, the Chancellor presented President Rouhani with the EU plan to "save the agreement" to report to Supreme Leader Khamenei. The bottom line is: there will not be the lifting of all the sanctions introduced by Trump, but as a first step only some of them. In return, however, to show its willingness, Tehran must return to respect its obligations. Then Merkel suggested to Rouhani to send "positive signals" to increase the chances of a US return to the agreement and defuse the stalemate with the Western powers: "If we really want to preserve the JCPOA and its objectives, we must see its effectiveness. in action and Europe must prove that it is working ”.

And here, however, we come to the signals coming from Tehran.

In fact, the Iranian leadership immediately responded spades to signals from Washington and to European requests, calling for the lifting of all US sanctions as a precondition. "Iran is the party that has the right to dictate conditions for the continuation of the JCPOA," Khamenei reiterated yesterday. "And we have set this condition and declared that no one will deviate from it: if they want Iran to return to its obligations, the United States must first lift the sanctions entirely and not just on paper, but in practice."

The problem is that having sensed the will on the American side – and even more impatiently on the European side – to save the JCPOA, in Tehran they are trying to up the ante. Last November, the Iranian parliament passed a law that required a recalcitrant Rouhani to resume uranium enrichment at 20 percent – a threshold higher than that allowed by the agreement and which can easily be raised to 90 percent. the one needed to build the nuclear bomb.

The same law provides that if US sanctions are not lifted by 21 February, IAEA inspectors will no longer be admitted to the country's nuclear sites. In a joint statement, the three European countries (Germany, France, United Kingdom) and the United States warned Iran that "any decision to restrict access to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (Aiea) would be deemed dangerous ”and urged the Iranian leadership to consider“ the consequences of such serious action, particularly in this period of renewed diplomatic opportunities ”.

To all this are added the continuous attacks on US forces in Iraq by the pro-Iranian Shiite militias and the resumption of attacks by the Houthis against Riyadh. "We cannot negotiate with Iran while its proxies attack US troops," warns Josh Rogin in the Washington Post .

The issue is complicated by the upcoming (next June) Iranian presidential elections. As our Dorian Gray explained in numerous articles for Atlantico Quotidiano , the nuclear dossier is closely intertwined with the race for the presidency. How should the Iranian provocations be read? A way to increase your negotiating leverage by getting closer and closer to the bomb in the meantime? Or, a hard line instrumental in favoring the most radical candidate in the race for the presidency? Or even, is the faction headed by the Supreme Leader and the Pasdaran no longer interested in saving the JCPOA?

In any case, it seems difficult for anything to happen or for Tehran to retrace its steps before the elections in June. So what's the point for Washington to make concessions ahead of time? There may be an intention on the part of the Biden administration not to offer alibis to the regime's “hawks”, who in view of the presidential elections in June would benefit from a climate of stalemate and opposition. But this is a win-win for Tehran, because collecting the first easing of sanctions without having granted anything reinforces the hard line.

Mind you: Tehran did not dare to challenge the Trump administration. It approved the law that commits the government to resume enrichment of uranium at 20 percent and not to admit the AIEA inspectors only after Biden's election, knowing full well that the intention of the new US administration would be to return to the agreement and, at most, try to improve it.

Obviously, Israel did not take American openings well: "Returning to the old agreement paves the way for Iran to a nuclear arsenal", commented the office of Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu: "Israel remains committed to preventing Iran from obtaining weapons and its position on the nuclear deal has not changed ”.

"Adopting a European approach will guarantee Iran the way to a nuclear arsenal", warned former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, "Ayatollah only understands force".

The West should avoid sending the wrong signals, it is the invitation that comes from London: "I don't think we should send the signal that we will ignore this non-compliance or simply hide it under the carpet", said Undersecretary of the Foreign Office James Cleverly: " It is all in the hands of Iran, it is they who violate the conditions of the JCPOA, it is they who can do something about it and they should return to respect it ”.

Beyond the times and methods, the road seems to be marked: the return to Jcpoa. The Europeans are pushing in this direction, Washington would like to improve it but does not know how, Tehran for the moment, awaiting the elections in June, is upping the ante.

But according to some observers, as our Dorian Gray pointed out, Tehran is not only upping the ante against the new US administration. The Supreme Guide would have already decided to place a very loyal president of his own and to run towards the nuclear device or, at least, towards the critical threshold that would allow us to get there in a few weeks, if and when deemed appropriate. And the "threshold state" would allow the Islamic Republic to effectively enter the club of nuclear powers, with all that would ensue at the regional level.

The post The first step is by Biden but Khamenei answers spades and raises the stakes. Are you sure that Tehran still wants JCPOA? appeared first on Atlantico Quotidiano .

This is a machine translation from Italian language of a post published on Atlantico Quotidiano at the URL on Sat, 20 Feb 2021 04:58:00 +0000.