Iran demands U.S. move first to salvage 2015 nuclear deal

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Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said Sunday the U.S. must make the first move to salvage the landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers, setting up a high-stakes standoff with Washington as both sides dig in.

In a tweet, Ayatollah Khamenei said Iran is prepared to comply with the terms laid out in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) if the U.S. lifts economic sanctions that were put in place during former President Donald Trump’s time in office.

“The side with the right to set conditions to #JCPOA is Iran since it abided by all its commitments, not US or 3 European countries who breached theirs,” he said. “If they want Iran to return, US must lift all sanctions. We’ll verify & if it’s done properly, we’ll return to our commitments.”

Biden administration officials, meanwhile, have said that Tehran must act first by bringing its uranium-enrichment levels back into compliance with the levels set in the JCPOA.

The signing of the JCPOA marked a turning point in relations between Washington and Tehran. The historic agreement brought the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China together in a united front to require Iran to restrict its nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling economic sanctions.

But Mr. Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, and his administration quickly pursued a “maximum-pressure campaign” to starve Iran’s economy through crippling sanctions.

Mr. Biden has signaled a desire to return to the deal or another pact like it, but officials argue that Iran must hold up its end of the bargain first.

“We are a long ways from that point. Iran is out of compliance on a number of fronts, and it will take some time, should it make a decision to do so, to come back into compliance, and time for us to assess whether it’s meeting its obligations,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters recently, making clear that Washington expects Iran to slow its nuclear program before getting any sanctions relief.

Right now, neither side appears willing to give ground.

“This is the definite policy of the Islamic Republic and it is also agreed upon by the officials of the country and we will not return from this policy,” Ayatollah Khamenei told Iranian military officials over the weekend, as quoted by Iranian media.

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