Israel Cautions Biden against Rejoining Iran Deal

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses a welcome ceremony after arriving at the State Department in Washington, D.C., January 27, 2021. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Israel is cautioning the Biden administration against rejoining the Iran nuclear deal, just one day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. was prepared to restart negotiations with an eye toward reviving an international commitment that the Trump administration abandoned three years ago.

“Israel believes that going back to the old nuclear agreement will pave Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal. We remain committed to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the announcement during a video meeting with the foreign ministers of Britain, France, and Germany, known as the E3, saying the U.S. will return to its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as long as Iran does the same.

“If Iran comes back into strict compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA, the United States will do the same and is prepared to engage in discussions with Iran toward that end,” a joint statement from the U.S., Britain, France, and Germany. The four nations along with Russia and China were the original signatories of the agreement.

The four countries also expressed concern about Iran limiting the access of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which monitors Iran’s nuclear program.

“The E3 and the United States are united in underlining the dangerous nature of a decision to limit IAEA access, and urge Iran to consider the consequences of such grave action, particularly at this time of renewed diplomatic opportunity,” the statement said.

An Israeli official told Axios that the U.S. made them aware of the announcement in advance.

“We are in close contact with the United States on this matter,” the official said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif responded to the statement from the U.S. and E-3, accusing the U.S. of “economic terrorism.”

“Instead of putting onus on Iran, they must abide by own commitments and demand an end to Trump’s legacy of economic terrorism against Iran,” he said.

Iran has moved steadily away from the requirements of the Obama-era nuclear deal since May of 2018, when President Trump pulled out of the agreement and reimposed crippling sanction on the state terror sponsor. The deal, which was the signature foreign policy achievement of the Obama administration, gave Tehran billions of dollars in relief from sanctions in exchange for a promise to temporarily curb its nuclear program.

Last month, Iran announced that it will ramp up its uranium enrichment to the highest levels since the 2015 deal was signed. Tehran said it would boost uranium enrichment to 20 percent in its underground Fordo nuclear facility, just a small technical step away from the 90 percent enrichment required to build a nuclear weapon.

Earlier this month, President Biden said that the U.S. will not lift sanctions against Iran to convince the nation to return to the negotiating table unless Tehran halts its uranium-enrichment efforts.

Shortly beforehand, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the opposite demand, saying America must be prepared to lift all sanctions on Iran in order for the country to retire its nuclear expansion and return to its commitments under the nuclear deal.

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