Iran stand-off: Joe Biden faces huge dilemma over nuclear deal – ‘Who moves when?’

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The US President is seeking to overhaul controversial policy decisions of his predecessor Donald Trump by signing a number of executive orders – but is yet to solve the complex issue of Iran. The former Vice President under the Barack Obama administration played a key role in the agreement of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which was signed by the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) placed curbs on Iran’s nuclear weapons programme in return for economic sanction relief.

But, relations quickly deteriorated after Mr Trump pulled out of the accord in 2018.

The two countries were also on the edge of triggering World War 3 in January 2020 after the US military killed Iran’s top military officer during a drone strike in Baghdad, Iraq.

Since Mr Biden became Commander-in-Chief, officials in Iran have urged him to immediately drop crippling financial sanctions and return to the deal.

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However, the US is seeking further assurances that Iran has stopped its nuclear programme and will not be rushed into a decision.

Dr Christian Emery, an expert on US-Iran relations, says it is “very difficult” to predict who will make the first move.

The University College London lecturer says officials in Iran may argue the US has to cave in and drop the sanctions first because Mr Trump abandoned the deal.

He told “It’s just going to be very difficult to sequence who moves when – Iran feels aggrieved that Trump first ripped up the deal, then decimated their economy, and then killed one of their leading military leaders.

“Because it was Trump who walked away they think they have the moral high ground to insist that sanctions are removed first.

“But this will be very hard for Biden to do given Iran has significantly breached its own obligations under the JCPOA.”

The existing deal imposed a number of limits on Iran, including its stockpiles of uranium – a component of a nuclear bomb.

Uranium levels were reduced by 98 percent to 300kg (660lbs) and could not be exceeded before 2031.

The enrichment level of uranium was also capped at 3.67 percent.

Iran has since exceeded both these levels according to a recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Before the deal, the US, UN and EU had imposed sanctions on Iranian exports – mainly oil revenues – totalling more than £100billion.

Dr Christian insisted Mr Biden could come under huge pressure from Congress to strengthen the nuclear deal and include Iran’s ballistic missile programme, human rights, and Iran’s regional policies.

Dr Christian added: “He needs to decide whether to pursue the narrower aim of just bringing Iran back into compliance with the JCPOA or the more ambitious aims of building linkages between the nuclear deal and wider issues such as Iran’s ballistic missile programme, human rights, and Iran’s regional policies.


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“He’ll face considerable political pressure to do the latter but it will inevitably require more protracted negotiations and this will frustrate Iran’s demand that sanctions be removed quickly.”

Dr Christian added: “He has a very small majority in the Senate and Congress will push for a harder line on sanctions relief.”

Speaking on Tuesday, Iran’s Cabinet spokesman Ali Rabiei warned Mr Biden that time could be running out to return to the deal.

He said: “The US will not have all the time in the world. We are waiting for the official announcement of their stance as well as the lifting of sanctions.”

On Wednesday, during his first address since being appointed US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said Iran would need to come back to “full compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA” but warned they were “not there yet”.

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