The US should compensate for its withdrawal from the JCPOA – In his televised speech that was delivered on January 8, 2021, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution discussed the issue of the JCPOA. He said, “We do not at all insist on the return of the US to the JCPOA, and we are in no rush for them to do so… Our reasonable, logical demand is that sanctions be lifted. This is a right that has been taken away from the Iranian nation.” This is the position stated by Imam Khamenei as being the final, definitive word of the Islamic Republic. With regard to this “definitive word,” KHAMENEI.IR has conducted an interview with Dr. Muhammad Javad Zarif, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and one of the members of the Supervisory Board for the Implementation of the JCPOA, in order to clarify the Islamic Republic’s position on sanctions and the nuclear deal.
Interviewer: Why is the west and in particular, the US government obliged to lift all sanctions against the Iranian nation? Why should the lifting of sanctions be prior to the return of the US to the nuclear deal?
Dr. Zarif: After the Americans withdrew from the JCPOA, they restored previous sanctions and also intensified sanctions under new names and titles. Therefore, the mere return of the US to the JCPOA will not suffice. This is because the JCPOA was negotiated under circumstances where certain sanctions were in place against Iran, and the lifting of those sanctions was specified in that agreement. In other words, the purpose of the nuclear deal was to lift the sanctions. At the present time, in order to restore those conditions, the mere return of the US to the JCPOA is not enough. Instead of saying that it will enforce the terms in the JCPOA precisely, the US should lift the sanctions. During the last four years, Trump tried to strip the JCPOA of its content and to impose sanctions that will remain firmly in place even if the US returns to the deal. For example, they removed our Central Bank and Ministry of Oil from the list of their nuclear sanctions and added them to the list of terrorist sanctions. Therefore, they changed the titles for the sanctions and the way they are imposed.
Although Obama did not fully honor his commitments, Trump’s goal during the past four years has been to destroy the JCPOA. First, the US should begin to fulfill its commitments. America’s return to the nuclear deal is a secondary matter. The main issue is that our economic relations with other countries should be normalized. If you look at the JCPOA and UN Resolution 2231, the commitment stipulated there was normalization of Iran’s economic relations with the world. These are relations that have become destabilized without any legal reason due to the sanctions imposed by the US, the EU and the obedience of many countries to the US. During the past four years, this situation has continued because of pressures exerted by Trump.
Interviewer: The US and European countries should take certain practical steps in order to lift the sanctions. What are these steps? What damages have been inflicted on us because of the US’s withdrawal from the JCPOA and how can they be compensated for?
Dr. Zarif: Practical steps include the normalization of Iran’s economic relations with the world. This means a resolution to all the measures that the US has adopted that have caused Iran’s economic relations to become limited in scope. We have nothing to do with the US.
However, if we want to enter into the details, they should remove the restrictions imposed on the sale of our oil. There are customers for Iran’s oil, but the Americans have prevented customers from buying Iran’s oil with their methods that involve aggression and pressure. Well, this should be stopped as well. Our banking relations should return to their previous state. The contracts that we had with various companies should be respected. Our banking branches should be restored to their previous state. They should also eliminate the problems they have caused for our transportation and insurance systems.
In other words, that which exists in the second part of the JCPOA stresses the results from the actions taken. Mr. Biden is not just obliged to sign a document. The signature is necessary, but it is only one of the necessary conditions. The main condition is that we must see the results from the US actions. This has been stressed in the JCPOA, and also in the documents concerning the commitments of the EU and the US. What we have been telling the Europeans over the past four years is that although they have signed certain agreements and have lifted certain sanctions, the people of Iran have not seen any result. What the people of Iran see at the present time is that some European companies have left the country. These are the results that we are talking about.
As for the issue of compensation, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution has said in his meetings with us and also in his public speeches that the issue of compensations is one that should be discussed in subsequent stages. It must truly become clear that the JCPOA is not a revolving door that you can enter from one side and exit from the other. After all, there are certain regulations for international relations. US actions have caused the people of Iran to sustain losses. Therefore, in later phases one of the issues that we will definitely bring up is the abuses they may try to do again, and so we will want to prevent such measures from being adopted by the US again. We should not forget that 50 Chinese companies were sanctioned by Mr. Trump over the past four years and our partners sustained losses as well. These losses should also be compensated for.
Interviewer: Another issue brought up in the statements of the Leader of the Revolution and by other officials is about mutual commitments. What is your analysis about the recent measure adopted by the Parliament and the administration? What plan do the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the administration have in the area of restoring JCPOA commitments?
Dr. Zarif: After the US withdrew from the JCPOA, we began a procedure and we have already completed two rounds of the procedure. In November 2018, we wrote a letter to the Europeans saying that we had given them an opportunity in two separate periods [from April to November 2018, a total period of more than six months,] and that if they do not find a way, we will begin to use our rights as specified in Article 36. They had another opportunity for another six months that was extended to April-May 2019. Since then, we have begun to implement our plan in five phases. We formulated and implemented those five phases in cooperation with the Supreme Supervisory Board for the Implementation of the JCPOA, which had come into being at the command of the Leader of the Revolution after having signed the nuclear deal. In the fifth phase, we stated that we will no longer accept any other JCPOA restrictions except for supervision by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
However, not only have they not honored their commitments, they have also violated them. Of course, we have always announced that should the other side begin to fulfil its commitments, we will return to ours because we are a country that abides by the law and that honors its promises. So those actions began in April-May 2019 and they have moved forward in five phases. The last phase took place in early 2020 at which time we officially announced to JCPOA members that we would no longer adhere to our nuclear commitments. In other words, we could have begun the 20-percent enrichment process back then and we had the ability to do so. And so we did begin immediately after the bill was ratified by the Islamic Consultative Assembly.
Interviewer: A point highlighted in the Leader’s statements was “Commitment for commitment.” You spoke about the other side’s commitments, but what is our plan for possible commitments?
As I announced earlier, the public and private statements of the Leader of the Revolution are the same. He had said the same thing to us before. On the basis of his guidelines, we implemented the policy of “Manifesto for manifesto, signature for signature and action for action.” If they wish to return to the JCPOA and if they fulfill their commitments, we will fulfill ours as well. If Mr. Biden signs an executive order, we will sign one too. Whenever he puts it into action, we will put ours into action as well. These are stages that have become completely clarified, and they are not just orders. It is the US which has withdrawn from the agreement and must fulfill its commitments. As the Leader of the Revolution stated, return to the JCPOA is not the main issue. Rather, the main issue is fulfilling commitments.
I wish to add another point. Over the past four years, it has been proven that exerting pressure does not work against Iran. The Americans really thought the pressure exerted on Iran in previous terms was not enough, and that was why they referred to their policy as “maximum pressure policy.” They used to think that if they exerted maximum pressure, it would be effective. If you remember, in April-May 2018, when they withdrew from the JCPOA, Mr. Bolton – Mr. Trump’s national security advisor – predicted that Iran would not celebrate the 40th anniversary of its Revolution. However, they witnessed that our people celebrated not only the 40th but also the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. And they did so in complete unity. And in the future, they will celebrate the 42nd anniversary, God willing. Up until now, seven US presidents have tried to exert pressure on Iran, but they have all failed. Today, the whole world says that not only did the “maximum pressure policy” suffer defeat, but it truly suffered a disastrous defeat.
Interviewer: If the two sides of the JCPOA wish to introduce new terms for lifting sanctions, what will our position be?
Dr. Zarif: They have no right whatsoever to do so. First of all, the JCPOA basically dealt with the nuclear issue in Iran, and it had nothing to do with missiles. Even if the United Nations Security Council resolution has mentioned missiles, it means missiles equipped with nuclear warheads. When Iran does not have nuclear weapons, then missiles equipped with nuclear warheads does not make sense either. Therefore, such terms are irrelevant. Besides, this is one of our red lines. Secondly, when the other side of the JCPOA sold weapons worth over 100 billion dollars to regional countries, they are not in a position to ask us to give up our weapons of defense. When they brought up this issue, we told them that missiles had nothing to do with the JCPOA. We also asked them, “Are you ready to stop selling your weapons to regional countries? Are regional countries ready to bring their military spending to the same level as Iran’s?”
The Americans have a proverb that says, “What is mine is mine, but what is yours can be negotiated.” If they are applying this to others, they should come to realize that they will never be able to apply this to Iran, which is the oldest nation in the world.