On Sunday, Iran rejected an offer to negotiate directly with the United States at an informal meeting proposed by the Europeans to revive the nuclear deal that President Donald J Trump withdrew from nearly three years ago.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said recent measures taken by Washington and the Europeans led Iran to conclude that “the time is not right” for such talks. His comments came days later President Biden ordered retaliatory strikes Against the Iranian-backed militias in eastern Syria that have been linked to recent attacks against US forces and their allies in Iraq.
In a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Khatibzadeh said, “There has been no change in America’s positions and actions.” “The Biden administration has not ignored Trump’s maximum pressure policy, nor has it made public its commitments” under 2015 The nuclear deal Mr Trump abandoned.
Mr. Biden said the United States would Back to the deal If Iran returns first to the commitments it made when signing it. Iran has called on the United States to lift all sanctions imposed on it, and has recently taken steps to increase uranium enrichment and limit access to international inspectors to its nuclear sites.
This impasse prompted the European signatories to the deal to propose an informal meeting in which the Americans would attend as a guest and the two sides would have a chance to engage directly.
Secretly, US officials expressed confidence that the timing issues could be resolved, noting that when the nuclear deal was in effect in early 2016, Iran and the United States engaged in a series of carefully coordinated actions that eliminated the question of who was taking the first step.
But political sensitivities are high.
Mr. Biden realizes that Republican opponents of the deal are looking for any indications that his new administration is making concessions without getting anything in return. Iran held presidential elections in less than four months, which means that no Iranian official wants to appear to be bowing to the American will.
So far, Biden has mixed a desire to re-engage in diplomacy with a modest military response to Iran’s support for proxy militias in Iraq and elsewhere.
The gestures of goodwill included abandoning a failed attempt by the Trump administration to impose the reimposition of UN sanctions dating back to before the 2015 deal. Mr Trump has argued that since Iran has resumed production of nuclear material at levels banned under the agreement, these sanctions should revert to their place. Automatically.
The State Department has also relaxed travel restrictions on Iranian diplomats who come to the United Nations and accept Europe’s invitations for direct talks.
But then came Mr. Biden’s decision to order military strikes on Thursday on several buildings used by the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia and other groups in eastern Syria near the Iraqi border. The strikes were in response to a February 15 missile attack in northern Iraq that killed a civilian contractor and wounded a US service member and members of the coalition forces.
Mr. Biden said the strikes were intended to send a message to Iran that “you cannot act with impunity – be careful.”
Coinciding with escalating military tensions with Iran weighing whether to meet the Americans is an idea as unpopular within Iran’s conservative factions as it is among many Republican leaders in the United States.
A White House spokesman said on Sunday that the United States was “disappointed” by Iran’s refusal to talk, but that “we remain ready to re-engage in meaningful diplomacy,” Reuters reported.
Henry Roma, a senior analyst who tracks Iran at Eurasia Group, a political risk advisory firm, said Iran’s decision partly reflected its leaders’ desire to appear resilient in the face of U.S. pressure.
“This is far from the death knell for negotiations,” he said in an email.
In his remarks Sunday, Mr. Khatibzadeh said that Iran would reciprocate both pressure and concessions from Washington.
He said Iran would “return to our commitments” as sanctions are lifted. But he warned that it would also respond to the aggressive actions accordingly.
Mr Roma said the confrontation demonstrated the extent of the “chaos” that might prove the revival of the pact.
He said: “Even if the general direction of travel is clear, Washington and Tehran will pivot in their efforts to build influence and deal with their own domestic political considerations.”
Rick Gladstone contributed to the reporting.