TEHRAN (Iran News) – U.S. ‘temporary suspension’ ploy and the next administration in Iran. In the latest sign of policy change in Iran, Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi gave a resounding no to a question on whether he would meet his American counterpart after U.S. sanctions on Iran are removed, suggesting that Iran is not limiting its foreign policy to interactions with the United States.
During his first presser after winning the Iranian presidential election, Ayatollah Raisi outlined his foreign policy priorities. He said his foreign policy does not begin with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and does not end with the deal.
“The foreign policy of our administration will not start from the JCPOA nor will it be restricted to the JCPOA,” Raisi said in a first sign that he will boost Iran’s relations with all major countries around the world.
The president-elect made many remarks on foreign policy issues, including the JCPOA. Among these remarks, Raisi’s answer to a question about a possible meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden grabbed global headlines.
A correspondent for Russian video news agency Ruptly asked Ayatollah Raisi whether he would be prepared to meet President Biden after the current points of contention are settled. Raisi’s answer was a clear no. This is while the president-elect tried to answer the questions in detail. But the shortest answer was given to the most important issue which is direct negotiations with the United States.
Raisi sent a message to the U.S. and the West in general that his foreign policy options are not limited if he is to pursue a foreign policy based on the three oft-repeated principles among Iranian conservatives: dignity, wisdom, and expediency.
Responding to a question on what message he had for the U.S., the president-elect said, “I emphatically urge the United States to return to the JCPOA and comply with its commitment. The Iranian people expect you to abide by your obligations.”
He added, “European countries and the United States must look and see what they have done to the JCPOA. The United States violated the JCPOA while European countries [who were parties to the JCPOA] failed to comply with their obligations.”
Raisi noted, “We tell the United States that you have to remove all sanctions [imposed on Iran] and must return [to the nuclear deal] and fulfill your obligations. Europeans must not be influenced by U.S. pressure and must act upon their commitments. This is what the Iranian nation wants from you.”
“The United States must respond to the world. It has been frequently emphasized [by Iran] that the United States must comply with its obligations and remove all cruel sanctions [it has imposed on Iran],” he continued, adding, “The Iranian nation is not satisfied with the JCPOA, because it has failed to deliver on its promises and the reason is that Americans violated their obligations while Europeans failed to observe theirs as well.”
Iran and the remaining parties to the JCPOA have been negotiating in Vienna over how to return the U.S. and Iran to full compliance with the tattered nuclear deal. So far, six rounds of talks have been held, with all diplomats involved in the talks saying significant progress made and that a new agreement on resuming the deal is within reach.
Diplomats from Iran and other parties to the 2015 nuclear deal held a meeting on Sunday noon to conclude the sixth round of talks that have been underway since April to revive the nuclear deal.
After the JCPOA Joint Commission, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyed Abbas Araqchi, who led the Iranian negotiating team in Vienna, hailed the progress made during the most recent round of talks, saying that the talks are nearing the end.
“Our progress in this round has been relatively good, because a large number of texts are ready now, and the amount that is not ready has at least one very clear situation, and it shows a picture of the differences and what stage (the differences) are in, and this helps decision makers make the right decision. We have come a long way so far and we are nearing the end, but the rest of the way, as I said before, will not be an easy one,” Araqchi said in remarks to Iranian state TV.
He added, “I hope and I think that if the other parties can make their own decisions, God willing, we will be able to reach an agreement that we want. Our positions have not changed since the beginning of the talks, and we want all U.S. sanctions to be lifted, as well as their verification and then Iran will return to its commitments under the JCPOA.”
But the U.S. does not seem ready to make a constructive decision regarding the Vienna talks beyond its stated plan to “lengthen and strengthen” the JCPOA.
While Iran is insisting that the Vienna talks should result in lifting all Trump-era sanctions, the U.S. continues to avoid making any commitment regarding the lifting of all sanctions. Informed sources told Press TV that the Biden administration refuses to fully remove sanctions without the need for periodic waivers.
“The U.S. has only offered 120-day or 180-day sanctions removal,” the sources said, adding that Washington also refused to provide Iran with a guarantee that the next U.S. administration won’t quit the nuclear deal.
“U.S. refuses to provide guarantee it will not exit JCPOA again,” The sources said, noting, “U.S. seeks further nuclear restrictions on Iran, beyond JCPOA.”
The main reason for the U.S. to refuse to lift all the Trump sanctions could be that it intends to use some of them to force Iran into accepting negotiations over issues far beyond the nuclear program, namely Iran’s missile program and its influence in the region.
In doing so, the U.S. is obviously ignoring the changes brought about by the recent election in Iran. While outgoing President Hassan Rouhani favored negotiations with the West, Ayatollah Raisi is clearly trying to boost Iran’s relations far beyond the West. Of course, this does not mean that Ayatollah Raisi is going to stop the ongoing negotiations, but, instead, he will look for other partners for Iran besides the West.
As he said in his first press briefing after securing a landslide win, Raisi’s foreign policy options won’t be limited to the JCPOA.
Raisi also made it crystal clear the U.S. stated goal of pursuing a follow-on deal with Iran would be a daydream. He said Iran’s missile program and regional influence are non-negotiable.
“Issues related to [Iran’s] regional [influence] and missile program are not open to negotiation,” Raisi said, adding, “There was an issue (Iran’s nuclear program) which was negotiated and an agreement was reached and an accord was concluded and they promised to remain committed to it. However, they did not do that; now, on what grounds do they want to raise other issues? Why Mr. Biden does not observe obligations accepted by former [US] administrations? Why doesn’t Mr. Biden fulfill his duty with regard to obligations that the U.S. administration has undertaken?”
He noted, “I seriously propose to the U.S. administration to rapidly return to compliance with its obligations, remove all sanctions [imposed on Iran] and prove through the removal of all sanctions that it is honest.”
Whether the U.S. would continue the Vienna talks without having its eye on follow-on negotiations remains an open question. But the new Iranian president made it clear that Iran is not going to trust America. Therefore, the U.S. needs to reassure Iran that it will not renege on its word in a few years as it did with the JCPOA, which was negotiated by the same U.S. officials now demanding a stronger deal than the original one. U.S. track record in backing down on its word in the JCPOA made Iran more suspicious of its future plans. Time will tell whether Iran and the U.S. would be able to overcome decades-long mistrust.