TEHRAN – In an op-ed in the Washington Post published on May 17, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt and Javier Solana, the former NATO secretary general and EU foreign policy chief, have criticized U.S. President Joe Biden for being slow to revive the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA) that was ditched by his predecessor Donald Trump.
“It’s puzzling that, after running on a return to the nuclear deal and promising that ‘America is back,’ Biden has been slow-walking diplomacy that U.S. allies strongly support,” the two former senior European officials wrote.
The nuclear talks in Vienna have stalemated since March mainly because the U.S. is refusing to take a political decision to remove the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), a branch of the Iranian military, from the list of the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). Trump put the IRGC on the FTO list in 2019 in order to make a return to the nuclear deal by a future Democratic president difficult.
“Washington and Tehran would be foolish to allow domestic ideological positions to sabotage a nuclear deal that managed — against heavy odds — to survive the presidency of Donald Trump,” Bildt and Solana said.
Last week, Enrique Mora, the European Union’s coordinator for Iran nuclear deal negotiations, visited Iran to help salvage the deal that Bildt and Solana said is “stuck in the political quicksand in both Washington and Tehran.”
After Mora concluded his visit to Tehran, the current EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said the sides have agreed to resume the talks in Vienna. Borrell said the talks in Tehran had “gone better than expected”. The EU chief diplomat added the “stalled” talks had been “reopened”.
Bildt and Solana said Iran is “expanding nuclear program” and argued “unless we can get the 2015 nuclear deal back on track, we are headed to a new conflict with Tehran.”
The two former officials also expressed dismay over an approval by the Senate that links a revitalization of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to issues not related to the original agreement. “Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate, including members of Biden’s Democratic Party, passed a measure asking that a deal with Iran should also cover non-nuclear-related issues — an almost-certain dealbreaker,” they regretted.
They also said, “Though negotiations on the essence of the deal are effectively concluded, the Europeans are trying to break a deadlock on the issue that continues to snarl the works: the U.S. designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization. This designation is a largely symbolic measure with little or no relation to the dispute over the nuclear program. Washington and Tehran would be foolish to allow domestic ideological positions to sabotage a nuclear deal that managed — against heavy odds — to survive the presidency of Donald Trump.”
“It is irrational to let nuclear deal that survived the Trump presidency to elude.”
As EU foreign policy chief Solana was leading the nuclear talks with Iran on behalf of the European trio -Germany, France, Britain – the U.S., Russia and China before he was replaced by Catherine Ashton in 2009.
Bildt and Solana defended the Europeans’ stance toward the JCPOA. They said Europe backed Barack Obama’s diplomatic overtures toward Tehran that resulted in the conclusion of the nuclear deal in July 2015. They also said they objected Trump’s unilateral pullout from the agreement in May 2018.
“Europeans supported President Barack Obama’s diplomatic efforts in Iran, protested Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and have now again been at the forefront of diplomatic efforts to end the nuclear crisis with Iran and avoid another disastrous war in the Middle East (West Asia). So it’s puzzling that, after running on a return to the nuclear deal and promising that “America is back,” Biden has been slow-walking diplomacy that U.S. allies strongly support.”
Fearing to antagonize the opponents of the JCPOA in the runup to the midterm congressional election, the Biden administration is hesitant to delist the IRGC from the FTO list. But Bildt and Solana warn the losses of a failure to put the JCPOA on the right track are “much bigger” than angering the opponents.
“The common refrain is that he is ‘playing it safe’ on Iran ahead of the upcoming midterms. But frankly, being the president under whose watch efforts to contain Iran’s nuclear efforts succeeded would be a much bigger hit for Biden and the Democrats in advance of the 2024 elections,” they said.
Iran has been insisting that even if the nuclear deal is not revived, it has no intention to build nuclear arms. Such a principle falls within a fatwa (decree) issued by the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that states producing, stockpiling and using weapons of mass destructions (WMDs), including nuclear weapons, is haram (religiously banned).
The two former senior European officials concluded their article by drawing a comparison between Iran and the Soviet Union, saying, “The West did not make arms control agreements with the Soviet Union because we endorsed the country’s leadership or sought to normalize relations. We did it because it benefited our national security. The same is true with respect to Iran. Biden must seriously consider the costs of his passivity vis-a-vis Iran and find a way forward — or we may find ourselves in another conflict that no one asked for.”
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