U.S. and Iran Vie at U.N. on JCPOA

At the United Nations, the United States and Iran charged each other with sabotaging the talks in Vienna on the future of the 2015 nuclear deal. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield charged that Iran had taken “vague, unrealistic, maximalist, and unconstructive positions on both nuclear and sanctions issues in the talks.” In his statement, Iranian Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi countered, “The current Vienna talks can succeed, not by engaging in blame games, not by setting artificial deadlines, not by introducing threats and intimidations, not by raising unfounded accusations or disinformation campaigns, and not by committing sabotage, disruptive or terrorist activities in Iran.” The following are the full statements by the two ambassadors as well as a statement from the three European powers at the nuclear talks warning that the nuclear deal—known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA—will turn into “an empty shell” unless both the United States and Iran return to full compliance because of Tehran’s “fast-forwarding of its nuclear program.”


The United States 

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfieldat the U.N. Security Council Briefing on Iran on Dec. 14, 2021

Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you to all of today’s briefers for providing updates on this critical issue.

U.S.Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield 
U.S.Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
The United States continues to pursue the path of diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to full compliance with the JCPOA, and to address our full range of concerns with Iran. President Biden has been clear: He is prepared to return to U.S. compliance and to stay in compliance, so long as Iran does the same.

We are fully prepared to lift sanctions inconsistent with our JCPOA commitments, which would allow Iran to receive the economic benefits of the deal. And we’re convinced that, if Iran approaches talks in Vienna with urgency and good faith, we can quickly reach and implement an understanding on mutual return. We cannot, however, allow Iran to accelerate its nuclear program and slow-walk its nuclear diplomacy.

I am sorry to report that is exactly what appears to be happening at JCPOA talks in Vienna. Iran greeted the resumption of talks with new nuclear provocations and proceeded to stake out vague, unrealistic, maximalist, and unconstructive positions on both nuclear and sanctions issues in the talks. We made substantial progress over six rounds of talks this Spring, with all sides making difficult decisions. As all members of the P5+1 agree, the outcome of these negotiations is the only possible basis upon which to reach a conclusion. But now, Iran is seeking to reopen these compromises.

The simple truth is that, as Secretary Blinken has made clear, Iran is almost out of runway. There is a little time left, but Iran’s continued nuclear advancements and their lack of urgency in the talks are hollowing out the non-proliferation benefits that would be achieved by a mutual return to full JCPOA compliance.

Iran’s continued nuclear escalations are inconsistent with its stated goal of returning to mutual compliance with the JCPOA. These escalations raise questions about Iran’s intentions, particularly given that the United States has made clear its willingness to lift all sanctions inconsistent with the JCPOA in the context of a mutual return to compliance.

Let me be clear: Iran’s actions will not provide Iran with any leverage in negotiations and only intensify our concerns with Iran’s activities. While diplomatic negotiations continue, we remind Member States of the importance of continued implementation of the remaining sanctions measures in Annex B of Resolution 2231.

Restrictions remain in place on transfers to and from Iran of certain ballistic missile and nuclear technology, and individuals and entities on the 2231 list remain subject to an asset freeze. We support the Secretariat’s continued reporting on the implementation of these measures.

We appreciate in particular the Secretary-General’s reporting on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in the region. Iran’s continued proliferation of UAV and ballistic missile technology to its partners and proxies destabilizes Yemen, Iraq, and maritime security around the region. The Houthis, for example, have launched increasingly sophisticated strikes deep into Saudi Arabia and into densely populated Yemeni cities due to Iran. We encourage the Secretariat to continue to investigate these incidents for possible violations of Resolution 2231, Annex B.

The Secretary-General’s report also finds that IAEA inspectors have been harassed by Iran while monitoring and verifying Iran’s implementation of its safeguards agreement. This is in direct contravention of their diplomatic privileges and immunities, as well as simple decency.

Iran must provide the required cooperation necessary to resolve the IAEA’s concerns related to possible undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran without further delay. Iran must fully implement the Joint Statement negotiated with Director-General Grossi in Tehran on September 12. Despite clear calls from all of the P5+1, this has yet to be fulfilled. The IAEA has our full support in carrying out its critical verification and monitoring responsibilities in Iran for both safeguards and JCPOA purposes.

The diplomatic process currently underway remains the best approach to limit Iran’s nuclear program and to set us on a path to address the full range of concerns that we and others have with Iran’s activities in the region and beyond.

The world is prepared to support a mutual return to compliance. But for the world to engage economically and expand diplomatic cooperation with Iran, Iran must first show seriousness at the table and come back to compliance with the deal in short order, as the United States has made clear we are prepared to do.

Thank you, Mr. President.



Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi at the U.N. Security Council meeting on Dec. 14, 2021

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.

Mr. President,

It is heartening that today, the Council, once again, is expressing its consistent position that the JCPOA must be restored and implemented in full.

This, however, can be realized only if all necessary conditions are met in real terms.

Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi
Iranian Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi

Make no mistake! We are not imposing any preconditions or new conditions. 

We are talking about the same conditions that are embedded in the JCPOA and resolution 2231; the same conditions that form the very foundations of the JCPOA; and the same conditions that resulted in reciprocal commitments of the parties in the JCPOA.

Without full satisfaction of these conditions, the accord is useless for the Iranian people. We, therefore, call for the full, timely, unconditional and verifiable implementation of the JCPOA; no more, no less. 

Attempts to link the JCPOA’s implementation to extraneous issues or raising ideas such as the renegotiation of the JCPOA to expand its scope or extend its timelines or proposals like more for more or less for less are totally unacceptable and doomed to fail.

Let’s refresh our memory with a flashback to the underlying causes for the current situation. The JCPOA is founded on two pillars: Iran’s nuclear-related commitments and the reciprocal commitments for the lifting of UN, EU and U.S. sanctions against Iran as well as promoting normal economic and trade relations with our country. All these commitments are meticulously worded and explained in detail in the JCPOA and resolution 2231.

In accordance with the JCPOA, other parties are committed, and I quote, “to ensure Iran’s access in areas of trade, technology, finance and energy”, end of quote. Specifically, the United States, in addition to its obligation to lift sanctions against Iran, is explicitly committed, and I quote, to “make best efforts in good faith to sustain this JCPOA and to prevent interference with the realization of the full benefit by Iran of the sanctions lifting”, end of quote. The fact is that we have been completely deprived of our rights and benefits under the JCPOA for almost four years. 

Now, certain States try to deceptively portray our insistence on the full and verifiable restoration of our rights as an unconstructive and inflexible position. At the same time, they are dead silent about the unlawful and inhumane sanctions of the United States, which, by any measure, is an all-out economic war against Iran, aimed at collectively punishing an entire nation, targeting the most vulnerable people the most, harming the poor more than the rich, the ill people more than the healthy ones, and infants and children more than adults. These acts are indeed equivalent to economic terrorism.

In this regard, the UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures calls the U.S. sanctions “unjust and harmful”, “destroying the economy and currency of Iran, driving millions of people into poverty and making imported goods unaffordable, including “urgently needed humanitarian goods”.

Mr. President,

The United States has committed multiple cases of “significant non-performance” under the JCPOA and still is in continuous systematic material breach of its legal obligations under resolution 2231, the UN Charter and international law. It is also in defiance of the unanimous order of the International Court of Justice of 3 October 2018, requiring the U.S. to remove impediments to humanitarian trade with Iran.

As a result of such gross violations of international law, the scope and extent of the damage to the Iranian people and economy is severe, resulting in the loss of many lives as well as a vast serious disruption in our economy. 

The U.S. has also exerted unprecedented pressures on other States either not to implement their obligations under resolution 2231 or face punishment. This is unprecedented in the Security Council’s history. 

While we have taken certain remedial measures in accordance with the JCPOA to re-establish some balance in the reciprocal commitments and benefits under the accord, certain States refer, with much fanfare, to Iran’s remedial measures in a manner as if it was Iran that withdrew from the JCPOA and re-imposed or introduced countless inhumane sanctions with the publicly declared objective of starving an entire nation. 

They also make hue and cry about our current peaceful nuclear activities as if Iran has violated its obligations under the NPT. Yet, those parties are dead silent about repeated terrorist and disruptive measures of the Israeli regime against our peaceful nuclear program.

We reiterate once more that our measures are remedial in nature and taken in full conformity with our obligations under the NPT and our Safeguards Agreement. Moreover, they are in line with our rights under the JCPOA’s paragraphs 26 and 36, according to which, in case of, and I quote, “a re-introduction or re-imposition of the sanctions … or such an imposition of new nuclear-related sanctions”, Iran will have the right “to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part”, end of quote.

More importantly, our steps are completely reversible. We are continuing our remedial measures concurrent with the Vienna talks because the non-performance of obligations by other parties still continues, sanctions are still in full force, maximum pressure policy is still being pursued, and the sufferings of our people still persist. Nevertheless, as soon as other parties implement all their obligations in a full, effective and verifiable manner, Iran will immediately reverse its measures in full.

Conversely, the sufferings of our people due to the non-performance of other parties with their obligations particularly those resulting from the re-imposition of the U.S. illegal sanctions are almost absolutely irreversible. 

How can one reverse the precious lives lost because of the U.S. inhumane sanctions? How can one bring back to life those lives lost due to the weaponization of humanitarian goods? How can one revive the lives of innocent children being perished because the United States has opted to prevent them from access to the most essential medicines?

Bearing in mind these realities, we insist on the effective removal of all sanctions at once and in a verifiable manner. The way that the U.S. has treated its international obligations has necessitated such an approach, because in international law, the implementation of the agreements is, first and foremost, founded on the principle of pacta sunt servanda. Its simple meaning is: the “agreements must be kept”. 

This is the oldest and universally agreed principle of international law, and is fundamental to all legal systems. This principle has been flagrantly violated with respect to the JCPOA and resolution 2231, and as a result, an entire nation has been subjected to the most comprehensive and repressive coercive political, economic and financial measures ever imposed on a country.

When such customary and very fundamental principle of international law is mocked, trampled upon and violated, no nation trusts the culprit, and so do we. Therefore, provision of verifiable and objective guarantees that, the delicate balance of commitments will not be torpedoed anymore, the obligations will not be violated again, sanctions will not be re-imposed under other pretexts or designations -- as took place during the previous administration of the U.S. -- and the JCPOA mechanisms will not be abused, is absolutely necessary. These are minimum requirements for relative certainty about the sustainability of the deal. We cannot and will not allow our economy and the daily economic life of our people be taken hostage to non-compliance of the other parties’ commitments once more.

We entered into negotiations and agreed with the JCPOA’s conclusion with goodwill, implemented our commitments with goodwill, and in the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal, provided enough time to remaining JCPOA participants with goodwill, to shoulder their responsibilities, and only after one year took certain remedial measures -- while based on the JCPOA Iran was entitled to exercise such rights immediately after the U.S. unlawful withdrawal therefrom.

Iran’s peaceful nuclear program has been under the most robust and intrusive nuclear verification, monitoring and transparency measures ever conducted in a country during the history of non-proliferation. Since the establishment of the IAEA, no country has ever been inspected so thoroughly. The implementation of our commitments has been verified by the IAEA as reflected in its 15 consecutive reports. After the U.S. withdrawal, Iran has exercised maximum restraint and paid a heavy price to preserve the JCPOA. Therefore, asking for objective and verifiable guarantees from the party responsible for the whole mess before us is absolutely warranted and necessary. 

Iran has done much more than its fair share to preserve the JCPOA, and those who have violated their commitments under the JCPOA and resolution 2231 since Implementation Day of the accord, quite naturally, bear more responsibility to revive it. They cannot play victim and blame Iran.

If the other sides have a genuine political will to revive the JCPOA, they must be courageous enough to accept full, effective and verifiable implementation of all their obligations agreed upon under the JCPOA in 2015. 

Concerning paragraph 3 of annex B to resolution 2231, we once again reject attempts to make arbitrary and distorted interpretation of that paragraph to deceptively establish a link between that paragraph with the launches by Iran of ballistic missiles and Space Launch Vehicles. According to detailed technical and legal reasoning that we have made in our numerous letters to the Council’s President, the launches of ballistic missiles and Space Launch Vehicles by Iran are completely outside of the purview of resolution 2231. Developing a conventional missile program is an inherent right under international law and is neither prohibited nor limited by resolution 2231. We will continue our activities related to ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles, both of which are necessary for ensuring our security and socioeconomic interests.

Allow me, Mr. President, to conclude by stressing that the current Vienna talks can succeed, not by engaging in blame games, not by setting artificial deadlines, not by introducing threats and intimidations, not by raising unfounded accusations or disinformation campaigns, and not by committing sabotage, disruptive or terrorist activities in Iran, but only by engaging in negotiations with genuine political will and in good faith, and sticking to one principle: the full, effective and verifiable implementation by all sides of all commitments under the JCPOA; nothing more and nothing less. This is the most pragmatic and easily achievable solution at the earliest time. There is no magic solution.

Iran is determined to make every effort to restore the JCPOA as is. To that end, our proposals put forward in Vienna are in full conformity with the JCPOA and resolution 2231. We have demonstrated our genuine political will, seriousness and constructive engagement with our interlocutors to arrive at a good agreement as soon as possible. Now, it is time for the other sides to prove that they are genuinely willing to accept and implement, effectively and in good faith, all their JCPOA commitments.

Finally, our observations on Secretary-General’s report are contained in my letter dated 10 December 2021 to Secretary-General, covering our views on issues that I did not address in my remarks today.

Lastly, I would like to say a few words about what was said this afternoon concerning the region.

Iran’s foreign policy is based on the full respect for international law, mutual respect, good-neighborliness, cooperation and dialogue, as well as maintaining regional peace and security through active participation of all regional States. We are determined to pursue this policy in good faith. Our recent approach towards our neighborhood stems from our strong conviction that the regional countries should join hands to resolve their differences amicably, not allowing those who have come to this region from thousands of miles away only to sow the seeds of discord among the countries of the region.

An important source of insecurity and instability in our region is the massive U.S. military build-up which has turned this region into the highest concentration of foreign military installations in the world. 

Our region’s other source of insecurity is the massive U.S. arms export thereto. According to SIPRI, throughout 2016–20, almost half of arms exports of the U.S., the largest arms exporter globally, went to the Middle East. The U.S. is not the only culprit here. Certain European countries also export deadly weapons to regional countries. This policy of Western countries has turned this region into a powder-keg.

Furthermore, United States’ terrorist acts have created an atmosphere of instability and insecurity in our region. A clear example is the heinous assassination of Major General Qasem Soleimani and his companions in Iraq in early 2020 in a terrorist attack at the direct order of the U.S. President.

With such a record, it is ironic that the U.S. and some European countries are now accusing Iran of destabilizing behavior.

I thank you, Mr. President.  


Britain, France and Germany

Joint statement on Dec. 14, 2021, delivered before the U.N. Security Council Briefing on Iran and Nuclear Non-Proliferation

The Security Council is seized today of a grave issue. For two years now, Iran has been taking unprecedented steps, and recently accelerated the pace of most sensitive violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA). Iran has also curtailed monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), leaving the international community with less knowledge of the status the Iranian nuclear programme. Iran’s nuclear programme has never been more advanced than it is today. This nuclear escalation is undermining international peace and security and the global non-proliferation system.

France, Germany and the United Kingdom remain committed to the full implementation of the JCPOA and UNSCR 2231. We are working tirelessly and in good faith with all partners in Vienna to deliver a deal to save and restore the JCPoA. Iran has walked back hard-fought compromises reached after many weeks of challenging negotiations, while at the same time presenting additional maximalist demands. We are nearing the point where Iran’s escalation of its nuclear programme will have completely hollowed out the JCPoA.

The diplomatic door is firmly open for Iran to do a deal now. Iran has to choose between the collapse of the JCPoA and a fair and comprehensive deal, for the benefit of the Iranian people and nation. Iran’s continued nuclear escalation means that we are rapidly reaching the end of the road.

French Ambassador to the United Nations Nicolas de Riviere speaking with reporters on Dec. 14, 2021

“We are nearing the point where Iran's escalation of its nuclear program will have completely hollowed out the JCPOA.” 

“Iran has to choose between the collapse of the JCPOA and a fair and comprehensive deal...Iran's continued nuclear escalation means that we are rapidly reaching the end of the road.”

“Iran's nuclear program has never been more advanced than it is today. This nuclear escalation is undermining international peace and security and the global non-proliferation system.”


Joint British, French and German statement on Dec. 13, 2021 in Vienna:

“As of this moment, we still have not been able to get down to real negotiations.”

"Time is running out. Without swift progress, in light of Iran's fast-forwarding of its nuclear programme, the JCPOA will very soon become an empty shell.”

“We are losing precious time dealing with new Iranian positions inconsistent with the JCPoA or that go beyond it.”

“This is frustrating because the outline of a comprehensive and fair agreement that removes all JCPoA-related sanctions, while addressing our non-proliferation concerns, is clearly visible – and has been so since last summer.”