Biden: US will not lift Iran sanctions until it stops enriching uranium

Last quarterly estimates by IAEA show Iran's stock of enriched uranium has risen to 2.4 tons, more than 10 times the amount allowed under the JCPOA.

US President Joe Biden visits the State Department, Washington (photo credit: REUTERS/TOM BRENNER)
US President Joe Biden visits the State Department, Washington
(photo credit: REUTERS/TOM BRENNER)
WASHINGTON – US President Joe Biden said on Sunday that the US would not lift sanctions on Iran to get the Islamic Republic back to the negotiations table.
During an interview with CBS’ Face the Nation ahead of the 55th Super Bowl, he was also asked if Iran must stop enriching uranium first, and nodded his head in affirmation.
Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, said on Friday that the US approach would be “to ensure that we are consulting and coordinating very closely with first and foremost our allies, but also our partners, and of course, with members of Congress” about Iran.
“We want to make sure that we are working in lockstep with our European partners and to ensure that they know exactly where we are and we know exactly where they are, and we will move forward together,” he added.
Earlier on Sunday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tehran’s “final and irreversible” decision was to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal only if Washington lifts sanctions on the Islamic Republic, Iranian state TV reported. The deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was signed during the administration of former president Barack Obama.
“Iran has fulfilled all its obligations under the deal, not the US and the three European countries... If they want Iran to return to its commitments, the US must in practice... lift all sanctions,” state TV quoted Khamenei as saying in a meeting with Air Force commanders.
“Then, after verifying whether all sanctions have been lifted correctly, we will return to full compliance... It is the irreversible and final decision and all Iranian officials have consensus over it.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also said on Sunday that Iran receiving compensation from the US for the US withdrawal from the 2015 Iranian JCPOA was not a “precondition” for reviving the agreement.
Last week, Price said at a State Department press briefing that if Iran comes back into full compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, “the United States would do the same, and then we would then use that as a platform to build a longer and a stronger agreement that also addresses other areas of concern.”
“Of course, though, we are a long way from that,” he added. “Iran has distanced itself from compliance on a number of fronts, and there are many steps in that process.”
He said that the US is consulting with allies and members of Congress “before we’re reaching the point where we’re going to engage directly with the Iranians and willing to entertain any sort of proposal, especially since we’ve been very clear about the proposition we have put on the table.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, said in his Senate confirmation hearing last month that when it comes to Iran policy, it is vitally important that the incoming administration would “engage on the take-off, not the landing, with our allies and with our partners in the region to include Israel and to include the Gulf countries.”
“President-elect Biden is committed to the proposition that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon,” he said. “Iran, with a nuclear weapon or on a threshold of having one would be Iran that is even more dangerous than it already is when it comes to all of the other malicious activities that it has engaged in, whether it is support for terrorism; whether it is fueling and feeding its proxies; whether it is destabilizing the region.”
He said that any agreement should “capture these other issues, particularly with regard to missiles and Iran destabilizing activities, that would be the objective.”
“Having said that, I think we’re a long way from there,” Blinken added. “We would have to see once the president-elect is in office, what steps Iran actually takes and is prepared to take, and we would then have to evaluate whether they were actually making good. If they say they’re coming back into compliance with their obligations and then we’ve taken it from there.”
Reuters contributed to this report.