It was revealed on Wednesday that US President Joe Biden had been caught on video in November during a meeting with activists, affirming that the nuclear agreement between the Iranian regime and six world powers was “dead.” The revelation of that video came two days after representatives of the International Atomic Energy Agency left Iran following meetings to discuss issues preventing the revival of the 2015 deal. Meanwhile, these and other issues continued to be discussed among regional and Western powers at a conference in Jordan that was jointly organized by France and Iraq.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action went into effect in January 2016, but in 2018 the Trump administration pulled the US out of it, effectively placing it on life support. By the start of 2020, Tehran had ceased all compliance with the agreement, which traded relief from multilateral sanctions for very limited restrictions on Iran’s uranium enrichment and related activities.
After Biden took over the White House in 2021, negotiations restarted between the regime and the other JCPOA signatories – Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China – with the US participating indirectly.
Those negotiations began in March 2021 but stalled for a five-month period following the appointment of Ebrahim Raisi as the regime’s president. When they resumed, the US and its European allies reported Iranian officials making more stringent demands of their interlocutors and reversing the progress that had supposedly been made prior to the pause. Nonetheless, there were several subsequent occasions when Western officials and commentators stated that an agreement to revive the JCPOA was imminent, only to be proven wrong by further extensions of the talks.
The negotiations technically still remain open, though there have been no new meetings since summertime. The prospect of such meetings became even more remote in September when anti-regime protests broke out across Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the “morality police” in Tehran.
Since shortly after the start of the uprising, the US government has maintained that rekindling the JCPOA is not a priority and that its focus shall remain on reacting to Iran’s suppression of dissent and its provision of drones and other weaponry to Russia for use in the war on Ukraine.
This attitude presumably influenced President Biden’s private declaration that the agreement was dead. But the administration had never said this publicly, and when challenged by attendees at the November 4 meeting, Biden indicated that it had no intention of doing so. This elicited some frustration from Iranian activists, including those who used the meeting to plainly declare that they wanted no agreements whatsoever between Western powers and the existing Iranian regime.
This sentiment has been reaffirmed in several venues over the past three months, such as a conference held in Washington last Saturday by the Organization of Iranian American Communities. The event featured speeches from several US officials and lawmakers, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as well as Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
According to many experts, the protests in Iran have morphed into a revolution. Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in his speech that “forty years of resistance against the regime’s brutal repression have now come to a head” while former Senator Joseph Lieberman used the conference on December 8 to call for broader use of this terminology.
Rejecting that uprisings are random/product of foreign meddling, @mikepompeo said #IranProtests are result of 40 years of organized opposition in #Iran. Recognizing @Maryam_Rajavi's leadership, he added NCRI is laying the groundwork for a free, sovereign& democratic republic. pic.twitter.com/Gnv9zyL0ig
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) December 21, 2022
Meanwhile, Mrs. Rajavi urged Western powers to support that resistance by fully isolating the clerical regime. “Any form of negotiation and… concessions to the criminal rulers of Iran should be stopped,” she said, as well as calling for Iranian embassies and institutions to be shuttered across Europe. For its part, the US has had no formal diplomatic relations with the regime since the hostage crisis that began at the US embassy in Tehran immediately after the 1979 revolution.
Despite this fact, the precise posture of the US government toward the Iranian regime has ebbed and flowed, as evidenced by the differences between administrations. Negotiations to revive the JCPOA have cut against the Iranian people’s demand to isolate the regime.
Iranian state media acknowledged that meetings had taken place between the mullahs’ Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, but reports generally said only that the resulting discussions were “frank, friendly, and constructive.” They did not indicate whether the two sides had grown noticeably nearer to an agreement, much less whether Amir-Abdollahian had conveyed a willingness to back down from prior Iranian negotiating positions that the US and its European allies had all dismissed as non-starters.
When IAEA representatives departed Iran on Monday, regime officials stated that the preceding discussions had been solely focused on how to resolve “safeguards” issues in favor of a return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA. This seems unlikely, however, since the nuclear agency’s head, Rafael Grossi, had made public statements just days earlier reaffirming his commitment to obtaining credible and complete answers from Tehran regarding unexplained traces of nuclear material at three undeclared sites.
Iran’s questionable account of the IAEA visit casts doubt upon the seriousness of the “positive signals” it is making toward Western adversaries. This doubt is arguably intensified by the persistence of thinly veiled threats of a nuclear breakout from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.
On Saturday, its Director General Mohammad Eslami boasted that Iran’s uranium enrichment capacity had “more than doubled,” thereby implying that negotiations had failed.
Tehran’s conduct this week underlined that the regime is committed to its provocative actions. Amir-Abdollahian used the conference in Jordan as an opportunity to paint foreign countries as co-conspirators of the recent uprising in Iran.
His remarks and the regime’s provocative actions, such as enriching uranium at a higher level of purity, foretell Tehran’s effort to pursue its nuclear program to gain the upper hand. The crisis-riddled regime sees its downfall on the horizon as the uprising continues throughout the nation.
Tehran entered the 2015 negotiations on its bloody knees, as it was facing a restive society and suffering from an economic crunch. The world powers lost that opportunity to once and for all end Tehran’s nuclear program. They also refused to punish the clerical regime when it openly started violating its commitments under the JCPOA terms.
Now the democratic revolution in the making in Iran poses an existential threat to the ruling theocracy, and the mullahs are fully aware of their dark future. The time has come for the Western powers to use their means, including the snap-back mechanism in the JCPOA, to instate the six United Nations Security Council resolutions, and punish the Iranian regime for its warmongering policies. They should also hold Tehran accountable for its gross human rights violations and rampant terrorism. The time is running short, and Western democracies should note that refusing to exercise firmness toward the regime is doomed to failure.
— Maryam Rajavi (@Maryam_Rajavi) September 26, 2014