Rouhani rules out bilateral talks with the U.S. unless sanctions lifted

Iranian President threatens further cut to commitments; stonewalls IAEA investigation

Iran refuses to cooperate with UN nuclear agency investigation
Iran will not agree to bilateral negotiations with the United States until all sanctions are lifted, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday. He also threatened to further cut commitments to the crumbling nuclear deal called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
“We’ve said it before time and again, and we say it again: we have no intention to hold bilateral talks with the United States,” Rouhani was quoted as saying by Iran’s Mehr News Agency during a parliament session in Tehran. “We never did and never will. This has been the case in the past year and a half, and even in previous years. There have been calls for talks, but we never responded to them. When we talk about negotiations, we only mean it under the situation where all sanctions have been lifted – that is, the situation we previously had under the JCPOA. Our stance is clear.”
He said were Washington to lift all sanctions it imposed on Tehran after it unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA, then there could be multilateral talks with the remaining signatories, the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia.
“We said that the US, as part of the 5+1, held talks with us and we took part in the talks,” said Rouhani. “If the US lifts all of its sanctions against Iran – [and] whether it returns to the JCPOA or not it does not matter to us – but if it lifts all sanctions, it is still possible for the US to be part of the 5+1, granted that it first removes all sanctions.”
Sanctions put in place by Trump caused the value of Iran’s currency to plummet and sent inflation soaring. Though Iran’s economy has improved since the signing of the deal in 2015, the average Iranian has not felt it, with high unemployment and growing inflation due to the sanctions, with a 165% rise in the prices of bananas over the past year, 50% in the prices of meat, 103% in the prices of tomatoes, and 15% for housing.
When Trump tightened sanctions on Iranian oil exports in July in an attempt to force Tehran to negotiate, Iran suspended two commitments to the deal, increased its enriched uranium stockpile to over 300 kg., and began enriching uranium to purity rates beyond the JCPOA limit.
On Monday, Rouhani threatened to take a third step by Thursday if the other signatories to the deal “can’t live up to their part of the commitments.”
“The further we move along this path, it may make solving the issue more difficult, but since our steps are designed in a way that we can return to the starting point at any given time we desire, it will not take any time, and we will continue our talks even after taking the third step,” he said, adding that “the basis of our talks with the European side is that we want them to pre-purchase our oil and the revenues to be in our possession. This will ease the situation for us to decide against making more cuts to our commitments to the JCPOA.”
Also on Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Iran is not cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency regarding claims first made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year that Tehran still has equipment and material used in the past for work on nuclear weapons.
According to Netanyahu, the secret site looks like a “dilapidated warehouse” on the outskirts of the capital that contained up to 300 tons of nuclear-related material. He called on the international community to immediately inspect the site.
Unnamed diplomats quoted in the report said that Iran has refused to answer requests for clarification by the IAEA over the alleged rebuilding of a dismantled site in Tehran, causing the agency to supposedly say that it would publicly criticize Iran for its lack of cooperation.
Iran’s stonewalling of the inspection marks the first time the Islamic Republic has refused to cooperate with the IAEA on the monitoring of its nuclear activities since 2016.
Israel considers Iran’s nuclear program as its No. 1 concern. According to recent intelligence assessments, if the Islamic Republic does decide to renege on the agreement, it would take it one year to produce enough fissionable material to make a nuclear bomb.