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Iran Urges U.S. to Take First Step Towards Returning to JCPOA

By Orkhan Jalilov March 11, 2021

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An Iranian uranium conversion facility, outside the city of Isfahan, around 254 miles south of the capital Tehran. / Vahid Salemi / AP

Iran's top officials have called on Washington to take the first step in returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iranian nuclear deal.

In his address to the White House administration on March 10, President Hassan Rouhani urged the US “not to be shy and return to the path of the law and implementing the international regulations.”

Iran’s president reiterated that if the party that violated the JCPOA then returns to its obligations, Iran will also return to full compliance with its obligations.

“All conditions are ready for all 7 countries to return to their commitments,” President Rouhani said, according to a statement issued by the official website of the Iranian president.

“The United States should know that we are ready to implement the deal; we are ready to perform the JCPOA whole in exchange for the whole, as we are also ready to perform a part in exchange for a part,” he added.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Wednesday that “the US itself has left the JCPOA, so it should take the first step to return to the deal.” He further added that “if the problem is mistrust, it is actually Iran doesn’t trust the western countries that have never implemented the JCPOA properly.”

Signed in 2015 by Iran and several world powers, including the United States, the JCPOA placed significant restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. The Iran nuclear deal was one of the crowning diplomatic achievements of former President Barack Obama’s tenure, however, the US withdrawal from the agreement by the Trump administration in May 2018 heightened tensions between the US and Iran and left the remaining signatories scrambling to keep the deal alive.

Following the withdrawal of Washington from the JCPOA in May 2018, Iran urged the deal's remaining signatories, to establish financial and trade mechanisms by which the country could get around the US restrictions. In May 2019, citing European countries’ failure to uphold commitments to preserve Iran’s economic benefits, Tehran began to reduce its commitments and resumed the buildup of its uranium stockpile and enrichment levels.

Despite Joe Biden’s presidential campaign promise of returning to the Iran nuclear deal, the United States has still not returned to the agreement, and former President Donald Trump’s sanctions have remained in place. As several U.S. Congress members have serious concerns about the Iranian ballistic missile program and want this issue to be included in the final agreement with Tehran, it would be very difficult for the Biden administration to gain majority support in the Congress for a new nuclear deal.

Iran has in past weeks accelerated its nuclear activities in order to enforce the Biden administration to revive the deal, but Washington insists that Iran should first return to all its nuclear commitments.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a report on 7 March that Iran has started enriching uranium with a third set of advanced IR-2m centrifuges at its underground plant at Natanz, in a further move away from the JCPOA.

“Iran had begun feeding natural UF6 into the third cascade of 174 IR-2m centrifuges,” the IAEA said in a report, referring to uranium hexafluoride, the form in which uranium is fed into centrifuges to purify it. However, under the 2015 nuclear agreement, Tehran can only use first-generation IR-1 centrifuges, which refine uranium much more slowly, at Natanz.