Steve Kramer
Steve Kramer

Iran Hangs Tough (on Conforming to JCPOA)

One of the important points that candidate Joe Biden emphasized during the presidential nomination sweepstakes was that the US would return to the JCPOA [Iran deal] and negotiate with the Iranian government. After his election win, President Biden reiterated this. In my article last February, “JCPOA Conundrum,” I quoted CBS News: “At this time, only a few weeks after Joe Biden assumed the presidency, Biden assured the public in a pre-Super Bowl interview, that, ‘…the U.S. will not lift sanctions against Iran unless the country stops enriching uranium,’ [thus] continuing a standoff with [Iran’s] supreme leader, who has demanded that sanctions be lifted before the country returns to its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal.” (2/7/2021)

On April 7, the US and Iran reported progress in “constructive” first talks on rescuing the nuclear deal. (The European Union is acting as an intermediary.) The Iranians demand that the US end its Trump-imposed crippling sanctions on Iran. Unless this demand is met, Iran says it will not meet the US delegates. 

Times of Israel: Ahead of the talks, US special envoy to Iran, Rob Malley, suggested that the United States could be open to lifting sanctions and returning to the deal. These comments were welcomed by Iran government spokesman Ali Rabiei. Malley told reporters: “We find this position [of welcoming] realistic and promising. It could be the start of correcting the bad process that had taken diplomacy to a dead end.”

Top Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi said, “Lifting US sanctions is the first and the most necessary action for reviving the deal. Iran is fully ready to reverse its activities and return to complete implementation of the deal immediately after it is verified [that] sanctions are lifted.” Rabiei reiterated that Iran was ready to reverse the steps it had taken, “… as soon as all sanctions imposed during the Trump administration are lifted.” (https://www.timesofisrael.com/us-iran-report-progress-in-constructive-first-talks-on-rescuing-nuclear-deal/) 4/7/21

Let’s get this straight: Candidate Biden declared that the US would resume negotiations with Iran, returning to the JCPOA. Then, at the Super Bowl, President Biden insisted that Iran must stop enriching uranium for economic sanctions to be reduced. Now, special envoy Malley makes the “realistic and promising” statement that the US might lift sanctions, foregoing the proviso that Iran must make the first move.

It may be uncomfortable for me to bring this up, but anyone who doesn’t have his or her head in the clouds knows that in the Middle East, the first one to concede in negotiations has already lost. Middle Easterners have a “bazaar” mentality, always asking their opponents to “make an offer,” knowing that doing so rigs the game in favor of those who have patience and wait.

The Obama administration was determined to make any kind of deal with the Iranians in the 2015 negotiations, resulting in an agreement, not a treaty. An agreement, not a treaty, resulted because Congress would never have approved the JCPOA and President Obama knew it. That made it easy for President Trump to withdraw from the agreement. 

Now discussions are ongoing to resume negotiations concerning the tattered agreement. But this time, Israel is not alone in opposing the JCPOA. Israel’s new partners, the Emirates and Bahrain, together with Saudi Arabia, are vocal in their opposition to “approving” Iran’s behavior which inflames the region. Even France has voiced its disapproval of returning to the weak deal, which has a short timeline (ok for nuclear weapons in 2030) for Iran to legally attain nuclear weapons and puts no limits on Iran’s missile development, nor on its many proxy armies.

On February 21, Iran declared that if the US didn’t drop the Trump administration’s economic sanctions against it, Iran would transgress even more of the limitations set by the JCPOA. They have done so. What more evidence of Iran’s determination to go nuclear does the Biden administration need?

Israeli Middle East expert Dan Schueftan recently wrote:“On the Iranian issue, so crucial for Israel, one can only hope the Iranians will continue to portray a difficult stance, one that even Biden won’t be willing to accept. They [Iran] may do so, due to the pitiful stance of the US, while relying on the [recent] strategic agreement with China [$400 billion], even though its chances of realization will be determined in the global arena. If Iran gives Biden a reason for a conciliatory policy that will allow the ayatollahs to realize their regional plan, Israel will have to act in a severe and dangerous manner.”

In a speech at the Yad Vashem World Remembrance Holocaust Center during Israel’s official Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony on April 7, PM Netanyahu warned that Israel will not be bound by a revitalized nuclear deal between world powers and Iran, declaring that the Jewish state is obligated to defend itself against those who seek to destroy it. What we hope won’t result – from Western acquiescence to Iran’s malevolent actions – is Israel being forced to take military action against Iran’s nuclear weapons complexes. President Biden has the opportunity to negate that possibility.

About the Author
Steve Kramer grew up in Atlantic City, graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1967, adopted the hippie lifestyle until 1973, then joined the family business for 15 years. Steve moved to Israel from Margate, NJ in 1991 with his family. He has written more than 1100 articles about Israel and Jews since making Aliyah. Steve and his wife Michal live in Kfar Saba.
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