Biden team offers to restart talks with Iran on nuclear deal

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks after signing an executive order related to American manufacturing in the South Court Auditorium of the White House complex on January 25, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran and the U.S. are in a standoff.

President Joe Biden’s administration wants to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, but is demanding to see changes from Tehran before it will lift the heavy sanctions imposed on the country by the Trump team.

Meanwhile, Iran says it wants Washington to step up its game and make the first move, refusing to budge until those sanctions are lifted.

But the Biden administration on Thursday took a major step, joining with European partners in offering to begin talks with the Iranians for the first time in four years.

“The United States would accept an invitation from the European Union High Representative to attend a meeting … to discuss a diplomatic way forward on Iran’s nuclear program,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

The Biden team also rescinded the former Trump administration’s efforts to reimpose U.N. sanctions on Iran. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told European ministers in a call Thursday that it would work with them to restore the 2015 accord, which he described as “a key achievement of multilateral diplomacy,” according to a New York Times report.

It remains unclear whether Iran will agree to the talks.

Iran previously set a deadline of Sunday, Feb. 21, vowing that if oil and banking sanctions are not lifted by then, it will expel the U.N.’s nuclear inspectors from the country, ending outside access to its facilities. 

The political brinkmanship raises questions over Biden’s plans to salvage a deal which has effectively been on life support since former President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of it in 2018.

‘Much more difficult to achieve’

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei addresses people via a live broadcast on state television on the occasion of the anniversary of the 1978 Qom protests in Tehran, Iran on January 08, 2021.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Tehran’s moves most recently included increasing its uranium enrichment and stockpile levels beyond the limits set out in the deal. And this month, IAEA inspectors confirmed they found a small amount of uranium metal in one of Iran’s nuclear facilities, which can be used to build the core of a nuclear bomb — but that Tehran insists is being used for nuclear energy development.

Iranian officials have previously stressed that the breaches are reversible once Washington offers sanctions relief. 

But that relief is unlikely anytime soon as Biden’s goals with the deal face a lack of support from much of Congress and his team wants to avoid looking “soft” on Iran.

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