Middle East/North Africa

Iranian leader predicts Biden will reenter nuke deal, lift sanctions

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday said he believes President-elect Biden will work to reenter the Obama-era nuclear deal left by President Trump and lift sanctions on Tehran. 

The remarks from Rouhani came one day after similar comments from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who endorsed Iran’s return to the pact if the U.S. ended Trump’s sanctions.

The dual remarks indicated that Tehran remains open to forging a new agreement with Washington despite military and diplomatic setbacks that observers speculated could make Iran hesitant to negotiate.

“I have no doubt that the three-year resistance of the Iranian nation will force the future US administration to succumb to the people and return to their commitments and break the sanctions,” Rouhani said during a videoconference, according to Iran’s Mehr News Agency

Rouhani and Khamenei also spent Wednesday expressing openness to negotiating with the incoming Biden administration, which has been vocal about its desire to reenter into a nuclear pact with Tehran.

“While today the entire world had understood that we are on our own two feet and nobody can break our nation, if the P5+1 returns to their full commitments, we will return to our full commitments the same hour,” Rouhani said Wednesday, referring to the other international signatories of the deal. 

“If the sanctions can be lifted in a correct, wise, Iranian-Islamic, and dignified manner, this should be done,” Khamenei added in a separate address.

The remarks indicated a rare union between Rouhani and Khamenei, who have for years differed over their openness to holding negotiations with the U.S. and other Western powers. Rouhani, seen as a moderate by Iranian standards, has been a more vocal proponent of diplomacy, while Khamenei has long been considered warier of engaging with Washington.

The comments are also likely welcome news to Biden, who helped put together the first nuclear deal and campaigned on creating a new one to replace it after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the pact. The president and congressional Republicans have railed against the deal because it does not address Iran’s missile program or support for armed groups across the Middle East.

Trump’s removal of the U.S. from the deal in 2018 marked a low point in already dire relations between Washington and Tehran, with the U.S. reimposing sanctions and Iran bolstering activity among its armed proxies across the region. The U.S. killing of Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani, in Iraq in 2019 also heightened tensions. 

Questions had lingered over Iran’s appetite for diplomacy, particularly after the recent assassination of its top nuclear scientist. The attack, largely attributed to Israel, was believed by some experts to be an attempt to cut off any talks with the Biden administration before they began.

Still, obstacles remain. Iran’s government is littered with hardliners who have been staunchly opposed to renewed talks over the country’s nuclear program, and earlier this month Iran’s parliament and the influential Guardian Council greenlighted legislation approving an increase in nuclear activity. The country is also holding a presidential election in June that could see Rouhani defeated by a hardliner candidate who could be more reluctant to negotiation.

Tags Ali Khamenei Donald Trump Hassan Rouhani Iran Joe Biden Joe Biden Nuclear pact Nuclear program of Iran sanctions

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