Speaking at the recent virtual Munich Security Conference, President Joe Biden said that the threat of nuclear proliferation “continues to require careful diplomacy and cooperation” in order to “minimize the risk of strategic misunderstanding or mistakes.”
“That’s why we have said we’re prepared to reengage in negotiations with the P5+1 on Iran’s nuclear program. We must also address Iran’s destabilizing activities across the Middle East, and we’re going to work in close cooperation with our European and other partners as we proceed.”
President Biden’s remarks came the day after the United States, along with Germany, France and Britain published a statement expressing their shared objective of Iran’s return to full compliance with its commitments under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA. The four powers noted that President Biden has said that if Iran returns to full compliance, the United States will do the same, “and is prepared to engage in discussions with Iran toward that end.”
The United States stopped participating in the JCPOA in 2018, re-imposed U.S. economic sanctions that had been lifted under the deal, and imposed new sanctions on Iran. It also placed travel restrictions on Iranian diplomats and took steps to initiate the “snapback” or re-imposition of multi-lateral UN sanctions on Iran. In recent months, Iran has taken a series of steps in excess of JCPOA limits, including openly enriching uranium to nearly 20 percent, far beyond what it had committed to do under the JCPOA, as well as producing uranium metal, a process with applications to nuclear weapons.
In order to remove unnecessary obstacles to diplomacy, on February 18 the United States rescinded the previous administration’s travel restrictions for Iranian representatives. The U.S. also announced it had reversed the previous administration’s position on the snapback of multilateral UN sanctions on Iran.
The European Union is now working to set up informal talks that would include Iran and the P5+1 countries – the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia – with the goal of restoring the JCPOA.
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan emphasized that President Biden is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and that the President is prepared to talk because “he believes that hardheaded, clear-eyed diplomacy is the best way to do that.”