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PoliticsMiddle East

Iran's supreme leader demands US lift all sanctions

February 7, 2021

Iran's top religious and political leader has set the lifting of all US sanctions as a prerequisite for the country's return to the nuclear deal abandoned by Donald Trump.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei represents the hardliners among Iran's political eliteImage: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/AP/picture alliance

The Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday insisted that the US must first lift all sanctions as a prerequisite for the Islamic Republic to return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

"If they want Iran to return to its commitments ... America must completely lift sanctions, and not just in words or on paper," Khamenei said in a televised address to air force commanders.

The previous US administration of Donald Trump left the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — commonly referred to as the Iran nuclear accord — and reimposed heavy sanctions against the middle eastern country.

US President Joe Biden and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, as well as foreign minister Javad Zarif, have expressed interest in bringing the deal back to life. However, hardliners including the Ayatollah have been more wary of rejoining the deal on the same terms as before.

Iran states its terms

The Supreme Leader also took to Twitter to lay out his demands. He explained that Iran had "abided by all its commitments" unlike the "US or three European countries who breached theirs."

As such he considered that it was Iran's place to set the terms of the new deal, namely that the US "lift all sanctions," after which Iran would verify and then return to the commitments of the JCPOA.

Khamenei's comments were his first since the new US president's inauguration on January 20.

Tricky renegotiation after Trump era

Biden already said that Washington expected Iran to return to strict compliance before the US would return to the deal.

He also saw the renewal of the deal as a springboard to further restrictions on Iran's missile development and regional interventions.

Trump, who was highly critical of the deal before taking office, pulled the US out in 2018 and initiated a "maximum pressure" policy against Tehran.

In response, the Islamic Republic pursued gradual violations of the agreement, such as further uranium enrichment beyond the levels dedicated in the JCPOA, but said that it could reverse those breaches at any time if the US lifted its sanctions.

Khamenei's comments came the same day that the UN special envoy on Yemen visited Iran to support efforts to negotiate a political solution to the conflict considered by many to be a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

ab/mm (Reuters, AP, AFP)