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Biden tries to resurrect Iran nuclear deal for bumpy start

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Biden administration’s early efforts to resurrect the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are prompting a cold reaction from Tehran. While few expected a breakthrough in the new administration’s first month, Iran’s hard line suggests a difficult road ahead.

After making several significant overtures to Iran during his first weeks in power, the administration’s outreach was largely avoided by the Iranians. They had already rejected Biden’s opening bet: a return of the United States to the deal that President Donald Trump had withdrawn in 2018 if Iran resumed full compliance with its obligations under the agreement. .

Iran is shaping up to be a major test of the Biden administration’s comprehensive approach to foreign policy, which the president says will realign itself with the kind of multilateral diplomacy Trump has avoided. While there are other burning issues – Russia, China, and North Korea among them – Iran holds particular significance to Biden’s top national security aides. Among them are Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley, all of whom were intimately involved in shaping the 2015 deal under the President. Barack Obama and could have personal interests in his recovery.

Biden took office with a pledge to reverse Trump’s withdrawal from the deal, which gave him billions of dollars in sanctions relief in return for restrictions on his nuclear program. Last week, Biden delivered at least three ways: agree to resume multinational talks with Iran over relaunching the deal, reverse Trump’s determination that all UN sanctions against Iran must be reinstated and relax onerous travel restrictions on Iranian diplomats posted to the United States. Nations.

Yet Iran has been steadfast in demanding that it respond to nothing less than a complete lifting of sanctions reimposed by Trump. Over the weekend, Iran followed through on its threat to suspend adherence to a UN deal allowing intrusive inspections of its declared nuclear sites. Although it did not order the withdrawal of international inspectors, Iran has reduced cooperation with them and has promised to return to the stage in three months if the sanctions are not lifted.

The Iranians’ intransigent stance has left the administration on the cusp of a difficult choice: to move forward with sanctions relief before Iran returns to full compliance and risk losing influence or losing its influence. double the demands for full compliance first and risk Tehran moving away. of the case completely.

It’s a delicate balance that the administration is loath to admit it faces, given the politically sensitive nature of Iran in Washington – Republicans strongly oppose the nuclear deal – and in Europe and the United States. Middle East itself, especially in Israel and the Arab Gulf States which are most directly threatened.

On Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed that the United States is ready to return to the nuclear deal provided that Tehran shows “strict compliance”. Addressing the UN-supported Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Blinken said the United States is committed to ensuring that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon and is committed to working with its allies and partners to “extend and strengthen” the agreement between Iran and Germany, France, Great Britain, Russia, China and the United States

“Diplomacy is the best way to achieve this goal.” he said.

Only 24 hours earlier, however, Iran on Sunday rejected requests to suspend cooperation with the UN nuclear watchdog. Although Iran has not expelled the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is responsible for monitoring Iran’s compliance with the agreement, it has ended the agency’s access to the video of the cameras installed at a number of sites.

There was no immediate response to this development from the United States, but on Monday the White House and the State Department both downplayed the importance of the move.

“We believe diplomacy is the best way forward to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said. “This does not mean that they have clearly not taken the necessary steps to comply and that we have not taken any action or indicated that we will respond to the requests they make either.”

At the State Department, spokesman Ned Price spoke more directly to the IAEA mission, praising the agency for its “professionalism” in keeping inspectors and their apparatus in the country despite the early threat of Iran to deport them on Tuesday. He said the United States supported IAEA chief Rafael Grossi’s success in reaching a temporary deal with Iran, but lamented that Tehran still does not comply.

Price said the administration was concerned that Iran appeared to be heading in the wrong direction, but would not comment on the administration’s view on whether its action to raise awareness of this day had ended. He was also not ready to say what the administration might do to get Iran back into compliance with the deal given its continued threat to drop all restrictions it has imposed.

“The United States is ready to meet with the Iranians to resolve these complex and difficult issues,” Price said, alluding to phrases administration officials used to refer to their original goal of “compliance for compliance. “, Then” compliance for compliance-plus. “

“Compliance plus,” administration officials said, would include limits on Iran’s non-nuclear activities, including missile development and support for rebel groups and militias in the Middle East. One of the main reasons Trump gave for withdrawing from the nuclear deal was that he did not address these issues and that his administration tried for more than a year to expand the deal to include them.

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