Iran on What’s Next with Biden

Iran proposed a mechanism to break a deadlock over how compliance for compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal could work. On February 1, 2021, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggested that Josep Borrell, the E.U. foreign policy chief and the coordinator of the deal’s Joint Commission, could “choreograph” U.S. and Iranian actions. Zarif had repeatedly called on the new Biden administration to remove all sanctions imposed during the Trump administration and reenter the deal. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had reiterated that the United States would only reenter the agreement if Tehran first rolls back its violations. 

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei expressed skepticism about trusting the United States after the Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018. “Don’t trust the enemy. We saw what the U.S. did under Trump and under Obama against Iran,” he warned on December 16, 2020. “The hostility is not just from Trump’s America.”

On March 29, a report in Politico described a potential diplomatic proposal by the Biden administration. The United States would offer some sanctions relief in exchange for Iran rolling back its enrichment of uranium to 20 percent and installation of advanced centrifuges. Iran rejected the proposal even though it had not been confirmed by the administration. "No proposal is needed for the U.S. to rejoin the JCPOA," Iran's mission to the United Nations tweeted. "It only requires a political decision by the U.S. to fully and immediately implement all of its obligations under the accord." The following are comments by members of the executive and legislative branches of government


Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

Tweet on March 30, 2021


Tweet on March 25, 2021:


Interview with Politico on March 17, 2021:

Zarif: "The U.S. can implement its obligations tomorrow, in 20 days, in a month, whenever. There has to be an executive order. It’s clear what sanctions need to be removed. There are roughly 800 sanctions that President Trump re-imposed; there are roughly another 800 new sanctions that President Trump or Congress imposed; and there are some re-designations. President Trump re-designated certain [non-nuclear] entities in order to move them [the sanctions] away from nuclear-related issues to other issues. The Biden administration knows better than anybody what they are.

"So first there has to be an executive order to return [to the JCPOA] and lift all these sanctions, basically terminate executive orders and waive congressional action, and that waiver needs to come into effect. As soon as that waiver comes into effect, that is as soon as the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) allows transfer of money, transfer of oil, transportation, shipping, and all of that, then Iran can come back into compliance immediately. Our compliance doesn't take time; IAEA can verify it and it’s clear what we need to do."

Question: "And how long are you, Iran, prepared to wait for the U.S. to make this return?"

Zarif: "As long as it takes for the U.S. to return."

Tweet on March 11, 2021: 


Tweet on Feb. 23, 2021:


Tweet on Feb. 19, 2021:


Tweet on Feb. 18, 2021: 


Tweet on Feb. 11, 2021:


Remarks in an online video on Feb. 9: "With a new administration in Washington, there is an opportunity to try a new approach. But the current window is fleeting. Soon, my government will be compelled to take further remedial action in response to the American and European dismal failure to live up to their commitments under the nuclear deal. This remedial action—as directed by our Parliament, and in accordance with our rights within the JCPOA—entails an enhancement of our nuclear program and a reduction in our cooperation with IAEA inspectors. It can be averted only if the United States decides to learn from Trump’s maximum failure rather than lean on it.

"Iran has time and again proven its readiness for engagement and cooperation toward shared goals and objectives with our neighbors. Our consistent aim in all our endeavors has been to build a more stable, peaceful and prosperous region, and we have proposed initiatives in this regard.

"I hope that our neighbors will have learned that they cannot bank on outsiders to provide them with security. We need to rely on each other, as geography promises that we will remain neighbors forever.

"We Iranians do what we say. And most importantly, we always keep our word. On the anniversary of our revolution, I reiterate Iran’s invitation to make use of the current window of opportunity to embrace dialogue, and do away with the futile hostility towards the Iranian people."

Interview with CNN on Feb. 7, 2021: “Well, the United States needs to lift the sanctions, not waive them. The U.S. needs to remove the sanctions. And compensation was never a pre-condition.

“We said that we will discuss that once the United States is back in the deal, and that is for a very clear reason.

“The deal or any international agreement is not a revolving door. They cannot simply come and go as they please. So the United States must make it clear and must give guarantees to Iran and other members of the deal that the behavior of President Trump will not be repeated.

“Because the international community has suffered enough from the lawlessness of somebody who acts on a whim. You've seen what has happened in the United States, you've seen what has happened in Congress. The people of Iran have felt that for four very, very long years. We're not prepared to feel that again.”

Question: “Your ambassador to the United Nations said that the window is closing for Iran to rejoin the deal. Can you give me a timeline, what does that mean? How long is Iran willing to wait before there is an even more substantial departure from the deal?”

Zarif: “Well, we have a statutory requirement to reduce the presence of U.N. inspectors, not to simply -- not to completely finish it but to reduce the presence of U.N. inspectors on somewhere around February 21st. I think what will happen then is that you will not see the additional protocol implemented in Iran.

“That doesn't mean the window is fully shut because if the United States and its partners return to the deal, return to full compliance, Iran will reverse its actions. All the actions we are taking are reversible.

“But, obviously, it would be much simpler if the United States decided to make good on its commitments earlier rather than later.

“And it is good for the United States' reputation. Because President Trump not only destroyed the reputation of the United States domestically but he destroyed the reputation of the United States internationally. So the sooner the current administration returns to international obligations, the sooner it can start rebuilding its reputation across the globe.”

Question: “Just very quickly, though. So is the ballistic missile issue non-negotiable, it's a nonstarter?”

Zarif: “The entire nuclear deal is non-negotiable because it was fully negotiated. We need to implement something that we negotiated; we do not buy the horse twice.

“You put yourselves in our shoes. You agreed to a deal, you agreed to give and take. You agreed to sacrifice certain demands that you had because you agreed not to deal with certain issues.

“For instance, we agreed that the limitations on arms purchases and deliveries for Iran would last for another five years, we just ended in October. That cannot be reinvented or renegotiated. The time is gone. We waited for five years.

“The United States did not implement the deal but we did implement the deal, and we did fulfill our promises and we are going to fulfill our promises again if the United States fulfills its promises.

“Let's start with something that we agree. We agreed on the JCPOA, the United States should start making good on its promises that it violated for very, very long year for Iranians.

“You know that the Iranians were deprived of food and medicine during Trump administration, despite all the lies that they told American people.”

Interview with CNN on Feb. 1, 2021: “The United States needs to come back into compliance, and Iran will be ready, immediately, to respond. The timing is not the issue. The issue is whether the United States, whether the new administration wants to follow the old policies, the failed policies of the Trump administration or not.”

“The United States has to accept what we agreed upon. We decided not to agree upon certain things, not because we neglected them, but because the United States and its allies were not prepared to do what was necessary. Is the United States prepared to stop selling arms to our region? If it wants to talk about our defense, we spent a seventh of Saudi Arabia on defense with two and a half times its population. Is the United States prepared to reduce hundreds of billions of dollars of weapons that it's selling to our region?”

“Clearly, there can be a mechanism to basically either synchronize it or coordinate what can be done. As you know, JCPOA has a mechanism built into the deal. That is the joint commission, and the joint commission has a coordinator. … Now it is Josep Borrell. He has two hats. One hat is his high representative of the European Union for foreign defense policy. The other hat is the coordinator of the joint commission. He can put his hat as the coordinator of the joint [commission] and sort of choreograph the actions that are needed to be taken by the United States and the actions that are needed to be taken by Iran.”


Op-ed in Foreign Affairs on Jan. 22, 2021: “The incoming Biden administration can still salvage the nuclear agreement, but only if it can muster the genuine political will in Washington to demonstrate that the United States is ready to be a real partner in collective efforts. The administration should begin by unconditionally removing, with full effect, all sanctions imposed, reimposed, or relabeled since Trump took office. In turn, Iran would reverse all the remedial measures it has taken in the wake of Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal. The remaining signatories to the deal would then decide whether the United States should be allowed to reclaim the seat at the table that it abandoned in 2018...That return to the table will be jeopardized if Washington or its EU allies demand new terms for a deal that was already carefully constructed through years of negotiations.”


In an interview with Etemad daily on Jan. 23, 2021: “In my personal opinion, we should define our relationship with the United States: To tell the U.S. that ‘we will not cooperate with you on the issue of Israel and we will disagree with you.’”

Iran “will not allow you to interfere in its internal affairs, but we have no problem working with you on the question of oil. We have no problem with ensuring the security of the Persian Gulf, though we believe that foreign presence in the Persian Gulf causes insecurity and you should not be there.”

“The Supreme Leader has said this is a test. If it proves successful, then we might approach other matters in the same way.”

“Iran and the United States are two different entities. We represent a civilization, but the United States wants to convert us into something else. America does not represent a civilization but believes in American Exceptionalism. This is what brings America face to face with Iran. I don't believe in causing tensions, but I believe we should protect and preserve our identity.”

In an interview with on Jan. 12, 2021

ZarifZarif: “After the Americans withdrew from the JCPOA, they restored previous sanctions and also intensified sanctions under new names and titles. Therefore, the mere return of the U.S. to the JCPOA will not suffice. … Instead of saying that it will enforce the terms in the JCPOA precisely, the U.S. should lift the sanctions.”

“Practical steps include the normalization of Iran’s economic relations with the world. This means a resolution to all the measures that the U.S. has adopted that have caused Iran’s economic relations to become limited in scope. We have nothing to do with the U.S.

“However, if we want to enter into the details, they should remove the restrictions imposed on the sale of our oil. There are customers for Iran’s oil, but the Americans have prevented customers from buying Iran’s oil with their methods that involve aggression and pressure. Well, this should be stopped as well. Our banking relations should return to their previous state. The contracts that we had with various companies should be respected. Our banking branches should be restored to their previous state. They should also eliminate the problems they have caused for our transportation and insurance systems.

“In other words, that which exists in the second part of the JCPOA stresses the results from the actions taken. Mr. Biden is not just obliged to sign a document. The signature is necessary, but it is only one of the necessary conditions. The main condition is that we must see the results from the US actions. This has been stressed in the JCPOA, and also in the documents concerning the commitments of the EU and the US. What we have been telling the Europeans over the past four years is that although they have signed certain agreements and have lifted certain sanctions, the people of Iran have not seen any result. What the people of Iran see at the present time is that some European companies have left the country. These are the results that we are talking about.

“As for the issue of compensation, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution has said in his meetings with us and also in his public speeches that the issue of compensations is one that should be discussed in subsequent stages. It must truly become clear that the JCPOA is not a revolving door that you can enter from one side and exit from the other. After all, there are certain regulations for international relations. US actions have caused the people of Iran to sustain losses. Therefore, in later phases one of the issues that we will definitely bring up is the abuses they may try to do again, and so we will want to prevent such measures from being adopted by the US again. We should not forget that 50 Chinese companies were sanctioned by Mr. Trump over the past four years and our partners sustained losses as well. These losses should also be compensated for.”

“As I announced earlier, the public and private statements of the Leader of the Revolution are the same. He had said the same thing to us before. On the basis of his guidelines, we implemented the policy of “Manifesto for manifesto, signature for signature and action for action.” If they wish to return to the JCPOA and if they fulfill their commitments, we will fulfill ours as well. If Mr. Biden signs an executive order, we will sign one too. Whenever he puts it into action, we will put ours into action as well. These are stages that have become completely clarified, and they are not just orders. It is the US which has withdrawn from the agreement and must fulfill its commitments. As the Leader of the Revolution stated, return to the JCPOA is not the main issue. Rather, the main issue is fulfilling commitments.

Question: “If the two sides of the JCPOA wish to introduce new terms for lifting sanctions, what will our position be?”

Zarif: “They have no right whatsoever to do so. First of all, the JCPOA basically dealt with the nuclear issue in Iran, and it had nothing to do with missiles. Even if the United Nations Security Council resolution has mentioned missiles, it means missiles equipped with nuclear warheads. When Iran does not have nuclear weapons, then missiles equipped with nuclear warheads does not make sense either. Therefore, such terms are irrelevant. Besides, this is one of our red lines. Secondly, when the other side of the JCPOA sold weapons worth over 100 billion dollars to regional countries, they are not in a position to ask us to give up our weapons of defense. When they brought up this issue, we told them that missiles had nothing to do with the JCPOA. We also asked them, “Are you ready to stop selling your weapons to regional countries? Are regional countries ready to bring their military spending to the same level as Iran’s?”

“The Americans have a proverb that says, ‘What is mine is mine, but what is yours can be negotiated.’ If they are applying this to others, they should come to realize that they will never be able to apply this to Iran, which is the oldest nation in the world.”

In remarks at the Rome Mediterranean Dialogues conference on Dec. 3, 2020: “We will not renegotiate a deal which we negotiated. The deal was about give and take. It wasn't about one side asking and the other side giving.... It will never be renegotiated, period, because that's a sign, a clear case of bad faith. If you want to negotiate something, and if you didn't get anything you wanted, you would want to renegotiate.” 

“The United States must implement, without precondition, its obligations under the JCPOA as required by Security Council Resolution 2231. It doesn't have to be a member of JCPOA to implement obligations under Article 25 of the charter as a member of the United Nations, let alone a permanent member of the Security Council.

“Then Iran, once the United States to implement its obligations because we were not the country that withdrew. It is the United States that withdrew. It has to show its good faith. It has to show its bona fides. We have proven in our bona fides in 15 consecutive reports of the IAEA, including five that were issued after President Trump's withdrawal from the JCPOA. So, our bona fides are very clear. The United States needs to reestablish its bona fides. It never established it. It needs to even establish its bona fides for the first time. And then Iran will go back to full compliance.”

“The JCPOA or any international agreement is not a revolving door. It's not that you can come in, impose restrictions on others, benefit from the privileges of membership, and then all of a sudden decide to leave and inflict $250 billion of damage on the Iranian people.”

Interview with news website Entekhab on Nov. 30, 2020: “The relationship between an Iranian agent and an American senator is not a friendly one and can be described as a work-related one.”

“These relations cannot even be called personal and good; rather, they can be described as professional relations based on mutual respect.”

“When I was Iran’s representative to the U.N., I had several meetings with Biden at a specialized level. Biden surely has a different view toward foreign policy from that of Trump.” 

“Biden has had a role in the United States’ foreign policy arena since 1970 and is more familiar with foreign policy than Trump is, but this does not mean that his stances are acceptable. We should note that Biden’s positions reflect the U.S. government’s approach anyway.”

“The U.S. government will definitely have fundamental problems with the Islamic Republic of Iran during the Biden administration as did Obama. During Obama’s presidency, relations between Tehran and Washington were not friendly, either, and there were differences to some extent; however, part of unnecessary tensions between the two sides had subsided. But during Trump’s presidency, tensions between Iran and the U.S. were at their highest in 40 years. It seems there is no need for this trend to continue.”


Tweet from Nov. 18, 2020


Interview with government daily Iran on Nov. 17, 2020: “If Mr. Biden is willing to fulfill U.S. commitments, we too can immediately return to our full commitments in the accord... and negotiations are possible within the framework of the P5+1 (six world powers in the accord).”

“We are ready to discuss how the United States can re-enter the accord.” 

“The situation will improve in the next few months. Biden can lift all sanctions with three executive orders.”

“This can be done automatically, and with no need to set conditions: the United States carries out its duties under (Security Council Resolution) 2231 (lift sanctions) and we will carry out our commitments under the nuclear deal.”


President Hassan Rouhani

In televised remarks on March 17, 2021: “It is a great betrayal of the Iranian nation if any faction or person delays the end of the sanctions even for one hour...The small minority that is obstructing this path needs to stop its destructive act. If it stops … the government can break the sanctions."

In a cabinet meeting on March 10, 2021: “They [Americans] should show in practice that they want to enforce the law and do not want to continue the economic terrorism of the previous government. From January 20 until today, every hour that passes means that you are breaking the law, and this must be recorded in history,”

“All conditions are ready for all seven countries to return to their commitments. The United States must take the first step in returning to the deal, as it has been the first party to break the commitment.”

“The United States should know that we are ready to implement the deal; we are ready to perform the JCPOA whole in exchange for whole, as we are also ready to perform part in exchange for part. We are ready to act on all obligations against all obligations, and we are ready to act on part of the obligation against part of the obligation.”

In a cabinet meeting on March 3, 2021: “If we delay the lifting of the sanctions even for an hour, we have violated the rights of the people, and the most important public right is that the sanctions must be lifted and we should all work for this goal.”

“In the current situation, the tone of the new U.S. administration has changed a little and he admits that the previous administration's actions were wrong, but no new step has been taken by the new U.S. administration in lifting the sanctions, which is the main issue.”

“If there is a serious will on the part of the parties, especially the United States, and they fulfil all their obligations and lift the sanctions, Iran will immediately fulfil its obligations.”

“We emphasize to the Europeans that we must maintain the JCPOA, and of course this cannot be done with speeches and slogans, and it is necessary to take practical action.”

“I have emphasized to the European leaders that today the P4+1 has a heavy responsibility and they should know that we are the ones who remained in the JCPOA during the three years of economic war, so they should stop the sanctions and enforce the law.”

In remarks on March 1, 2021: “I am confident that the United States will finally have to kneel down before the Iranian nation and abandon its sanctions.”

“It is our biggest success in history that, as a result of the Iranian nation’s resilience, they admitted their pressure and sanctions have been futile.”

In a cabinet meeting on Feb. 17, 2021: “We do not want to have covert nuclear activity, neither yesterday, nor today, nor tomorrow, it is our firm decision, whether the United States, Europe and the United Nations want or not.” 

“In this regard, the opinion of the Supreme Leader as a fatwa [religious edict] is the principle for us and we will not break our commitment.”
“This agreement [the nuclear deal] was not reached easily, and today we believe in the JCPOA that was approved on July 14, 2015. We do not accept any change in it, and we stand by our commitment.”

“The dismissal of [International Atomic Energy Agency] inspectors will be interpreted in world public opinion in the sense that we want to pursue nuclear weapons, which is not true at all. We have to speak precisely.”

In a televised speech on Feb. 10, 2021: “The moment that they honor their commitments under the deal, we will adhere to our commitments... The only path is certainly the world’s agreement with Iran.”

“Negotiation is one of the tools of a government and modern governance in today's world, which is the legacy of the great Prophet of Islam (PBUH).”

"We are proud that we negotiated and made a pact with our enemies [the JCPOA] as the way that the Prophet (PBUH) and Imam Hassan (AS) have taught us.”

Cabinet meeting on Jan. 27, 2021: “The world is unanimously calling on the United States to return to its obligations, and we have also repeatedly stated that whenever you return to your obligations, we will return to all our obligations an hour later.”

Cabinet meeting on Jan. 20, 2021: “If the new government in White House has learned a lesson from the previous administration, they will make up for the mistakes. The previous president was a tower builder and did not know politics, but the new U.S. administration understands politics and has political experience.”

“They should know that if they sign U.N. Resolution 2231, in return, Iran will sign it as well and nothing more, if they issue an order, Iran will issue an order, and if they take action, they will see action from us.”

“Today, the ball is in the court of the United States and Washington. If they fulfil their commitments, we will do the same.”

Cabinet meeting on Jan. 6, 2021: “If Biden says that the United States wants to obey the law and fulfil its obligations, our answer is clear and simple and we say that if you fulfil all your obligations, we will fulfil all our obligations as well.”

“If you do not do so, we will not bow down to you. If you do fulfill your obligations, we don't owe you anything. You used to do something illegal, now you have stopped doing something illegal, you have regretted and realized that you were wrong.”

Press conference on Dec. 14, 2020: “We will not accept any pre-conditions from anybody. Neither is the JCPOA negotiable, nor can we set it out on the negotiation table and discuss it part by part.”

“Either everyone will implement the JCPOA as it is or they don’t. If they do, we will too.”

“Joe Biden has stated that he would like to return to the nuclear deal, but this time they are looking for a stronger agreement that would include the missile program and Iran’s regional influence.” 

“The other issues you mentioned like missile and regional issues have nothing to do the nuclear issue. The U.S. tried for months to include the missile program, and we told them it’s non-negotiable. They tried for months to include regional issues as well. They were all discussed and rejected.”

“I believe that the era of the economic war has come to an end. This war cannot go on, not because Trump has been defeated and Mr. Biden has won. Even if Trump had won, he would have been forced to do away with sanctions.”

Cabinet meeting on Nov. 8, 2020: “Now is the time for the next administration of the United States to make up for past mistakes and return to the path of adherence to international obligations and respecting global regulations.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has always adhered to its obligations if all other parties do so in a responsible manner, and we consider constructive interaction with the world as our strategy.”

Cabinet meeting on Nov. 11, 2020: “We have not cut ties with the United States, it is them who cut ties and started hostilities with Iran, they must change their policy themselves.”

“A person whose term is coming to an end considered JCPOA to be the worst deal in history and they encouraged him to get out of it with the childish and delusional idea that he could overthrow Iran in two or three months, and those who have been newly elected have announced that they want to return to the deal. Iran and the P4+1 have been in the deal from the beginning, and it is up to them; if they live up to their obligations, they can choose a new path.”

Cabinet meeting on Nov. 18, 2020: “The new government in America will return to the conditions (of the JCPOA) as they complied before. Of course, the previous governments did not follow all the rules. But this last one was a rebel. So they will return to those conditions. And those conditions can turn the tide. That is, we are gradually moving from the space of threat to the space of opportunity.” 

Speech on Nov. 25, 2020: “We hope that the next administration will explicitly condemns Trump's policies against Iran and make up for its anti-human rights and terrorist acts, the wrong policies pursued by the previous government over the past four years in its first steps.” 

“The policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as it has repeatedly emphasized, is commitment for commitment, action for action, reduction of tension for reduction of tension, respect for respect and international commitments for international commitments. If there is such a will in the coming American administration, I think it is very easy to settle the problems.”

“Iran and the United States can both decide and announce that they will return to the terms of January 20, 2017, and this can be a great solution to many issues and problems, and completely change the course and conditions, and then we can continue taking the next steps on different issues.”

Cabinet meeting on Dec. 9, 2020: President Trump “scribbled on a piece of paper" to withdraw the United States from the nuclear deal in May 2018. 

“The next person can put up a nice piece of paper and sign it and it just needs a signature, we’ll be back where we were. It takes no time and needs no negotiations.”  

“And it’s not just about the U.S. The P4+1 can return to all their commitments and we will do the same.” 

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei

Nowruz Remarks on Mar. 21, 2021: "The country’s policy in dealing with the other parties in the JCPOA and the JCPOA itself has already been clearly announced. This policy should not be violated in any way. It is a policy that has already been announced and which has been adopted with everyone’s agreement. This policy is that the Americans should lift all sanctions. Then, we will verify that they have been lifted. If the sanctions have truly been lifted, we will return to our JCPOA commitments. This is our definite policy."

"Some Americans even object to the current JCOPA. I have heard some Americans say the situation has changed since the JCPOA was signed in 1394 and 1395 AH. Therefore, the JCPOA should change as well. I too accept that today’s situation is different from what it was in the years 1394 and 1395. But it has changed to our advantage, not to the advantage of the Americans."

"Iran has become much stronger now in comparison with the year 1394. It has been able to stand on its own feet and find confidence in itself. However, you have become increasingly disreputable since the year 1394. During this period of time, the administration that was in power disgraced your country with its statements, actions and behavior and finally with its departure. Economic problems have engulfed all parts of your country. Yes, things have changed, but to your disadvantage. So if the JCPOA is to change, it should change to the advantage of Iran, not them."

"When we say that it is they who should lift the sanctions first, I have heard some politicians in the world respond, ‘What difference does it make? You say the US should act first, and the US says that you should take action first.’ The issue is not who should act first. The issue is that we trusted the Americans during the Obama administration and we honored our commitments in the JCPOA, but they did not honor their commitments. They only said on paper that the sanctions had been lifted.”

Remarks on Feb. 22, 2021: "The Parliament passed a law regarding the nuclear issue and the administration welcomed it. God willing, tomorrow another part of this legislation will be implemented. This law, which is good, should be executed precisely."

"We are not after nuclear weapons. This is based on Islamic fundamentals and commands that prohibit weapons that are used for killing ordinary people. The one that massacres 220,000 people with nuclear weapons is the U.S."

"Over the past few days, the U.S. and the three European countries have used arrogant, unjust rhetoric regarding Iran. They keep asking why Iran has stopped carrying out its JCPOA commitments, but they don't mention that they never carried out their own commitments."

"Iran is not after nuclear weapons, but its nuclear enrichment will not be limited to 20 percent either. It will enrich uranium to any extent that is necessary for the country. Iran's enrichment level may reach 60 percent to meet the country's needs."

Remarks on Feb. 17, 2021: “About the JCPOA, promises were made by the other side. I am saying one thing: We’ve heard many promises which were broken and contradicted in practice. Mere words don't help. This time only action! Action! If the Islamic Republic sees action from the other side, it will act too.”

Remarks on Feb. 7, 2021: “If they want Iran to return to its JCPOA commitments, the U.S. should remove all sanctions in action. After they have done this, we will check if the sanctions have truly been removed. Once this is done, we will resume our JCPOA commitments.”

 “On the issue of sanctions, first of all, no one in the Islamic Republic believes what those incompetent prattlers say – whether they are in European countries or in the US. Secondly, if we want to be reasonable, the U.S. and the three European countries do not have the right to set terms and conditions because they have violated all of their JCOPA commitments. They have not honored any of their commitments.”

Remarks on Dec. 16, 2020: “Don’t trust the enemy. We saw what the U.S. did under (President Donald) Trump and under (President Barack) Obama against Iran. The hostility (against Iran) is not just from Trump’s America, which will not end when he leaves, as Obama’s America also did bad things to the Iranian nation. The three European countries (Britain, France and Germany) have displayed utter malice and duplicity too.”

“Lifting sanctions is in the enemy's hands. Nullifying them is in ours. We should work more on nullifying than removing them. I am not saying that we shouldn't pursue removing sanctions. But sanctions that were supposed to be lifted according to the JCPOA, four years ago, have intensified.”

Address on Nov. 24, 2020: “We tried the first path for ending the sanctions. We negotiated for several years, but it did not work. The second path is to overcome the sanctions. The second path, overcoming the sanctions, is the one that can work. Of course, there are certain obstacles and hardships for doing so, but it will have a desirable end.” 

“Regardless of whether we actually receive help from the outside or not, we should assume that no assistance will come from the outside. We should work and plan with this attitude. Those on whom certain people have pinned their hopes are showing enmity towards us. As for the US, it is not clear in what situation America is in – “In such times, everyone is thinking about themselves” [from a poem by Asefi Heravi]. Their problems do not allow them to express their viewpoints about international matters. They are not in a position to say something upon which one can count.” 


U.N. Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi

Interview with USA TODAY published on Jan. 28, 2021: The Biden administration “must act quickly” to return to the 2015 nuclear deal “because the window is closing.”

“We have said time and again that if the U.S. decides to go back to its international commitments and lift all the illegal sanctions against Iran, we will go back to the full implementation of JCPOA, which will benefit all sides.”

“The party that needs to change course is the United States, and not Iran," 

Iran cannot accept a “renegotiation of the nuclear deal.”

U.S. sanctions “are taking a heavy toll on all Iranians, and particularly vulnerable segments of the society. Even medicines are not being spared from sanctions during the pandemic.”

It is time for the Biden administration to “gain the trust of the Iranian people.”

Op-ed in The New York Times on Jan. 27, 2021: "Any halfhearted or partial fulfillment of the United States commitments will undermine what Mr. Biden has promised. But it will also be interpreted as insincerity on the part of the new administration, which will provide ammunition for opponents of the nuclear deal to sabotage diplomacy.

"Mr. Biden’s Iran policy may go in two opposing directions: He may maintain the sanctions on Iran, which violate the nuclear agreement and which have been rejected by the international community — a move that would be tantamount to continuing Mr. Trump’s ill-fated “maximum pressure” policy. Or he could opt for the prompt fulfillment of American obligations under the nuclear deal, a promise he has already made.

"The accord was specifically designed to deal with the nuclear issue, and nothing else. Other elements of Iran-United States relations have nothing to do with the agreement and cannot be intertwined with it. Still, if fully implemented, it can be a basis for mutual respect that would be to the benefit of all parties.

"But Mr. Biden and his administration should know that any delay in the lifting of sanctions will be construed as a sign of continued animosity toward the Iranian people. Iranians are suffering from this unjust blockade on our economy, and the responsibility for this suffering lies squarely with the United States. The Iranian people will not be indifferent to continued collective punishment. In fact, their representatives in the Parliament passed a law last month obligating the government to take certain measures, such as increasing the level of uranium enrichment, if sanctions are not lifted.

"The window is closing. If the new administration does not meet its obligations and remove sanctions in short order, it will destroy the possibility for engagement within the nuclear agreement. But a full and honest lifting of the sanctions will create a new atmosphere that will help ease tensions in the region and beyond."

Interview with NBC News on Jan. 25, 2021: “No, there has not been any conversation between Iran and the U.S. after Biden came into office.”

“It's up to the U.S. to decide what course of action to take. We're not in a hurry.”

“The ball is in the U.S. court.”

“It is totally up to the new administration. So as soon as they implement their obligations, Iran has said on numerous occasions that Iran will return to the full implementation of its undertakings.”

“Words are not enough. We need to see action on the part of the United States.”

“We are ready to engage on a comprehensive exchange of all prisoners or detainees on both sides, in the United States, in Iran, and those that are waiting to be extradited to the United States. And this is a very simple and straightforward proposition.”

Statement to the U.N. Security Council on Dec. 22, 2020: “As has been clearly stated by our officials, as soon as all JCPOA participants start implementing their commitments unconditionally, effectively and in full, Iran will also resume implementing all its JCPOA commitments.

“This has always been our principled position throughout the recent years and now it has become a binding legal obligation for the Government following the recent adoption of a new law by our Parliament.

“The JCPOA cannot be linked to any other issues as the agenda of the nuclear talks from the beginning was the nuclear issue. We decided not to allow other issues to complicate the already difficult negotiations. That was a very wise decision made by all JCPOA participants. Therefore, any attempt now to link the future of JCPOA to extraneous issues will doom to fail. 

“We have on numerous occasions made our position on the defensive capabilities of our country quite clear. To develop a conventional missile program is an inherent right of any country under international law and Iran is no exception. Consequently, Iran will not negotiate its legitimate ballistic missile program.

“Living in such a volatile region as the Middle East, we will not allow our security and conventional defensive capability be compromised, restricted or undermined. Bullying policies of certain powers will not intimidate Iran to relinquish its legitimate defensive means.”


Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi

Interview on state television on Feb. 8, 2021

“Our nuclear program is peaceful and the fatwa [religious edict] by the supreme leader has forbidden nuclear weapons, but if they push Iran in that direction, then it wouldn’t be Iran’s fault but those who pushed it.”

“If a cat is cornered, it may show a kind of behavior that a free cat would not.”


Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi

Interview with PBS NewsHour on March 9, 2021:

Question: “Were you pleased when Mr. Biden was elected president?”

Salehi: “This is not a matter of — personal matter of being pleased or not pleased. We look at the — what the, really, actions are.”

“But so far that Mr. Biden has come, though he has promised to sort of come back to the JCPOA, but he has not yet delivered to that promise.”

Question: “He has not delivered, from your point of view, but Mr. Biden has said he wants to restore the deal, and he wants to talk. Iran says: We don't want to talk. Isn't this the opportunity that Iran was looking for?”

Salehi: “Well, yes, the answer is that the one who has left the JCPOA has to come back first.”

Question: “But the Biden administration is saying they don't want to negotiate the deal. They just want to discuss the mechanism, the sequencing with which both sides can restore the deal.”

Salehi: “Why do we want to complicate the issue?”

Question: “Because the issue is complicated. Why not talk?

Salehi: “No, it is not as — not, it's not really complicated.

“We have already the deal, the JCPOA deal. It's a deal that was negotiated for over two years. And the U.S. administration at one time felt that they want to leave the deal. You are the one who has left the deal, and you have to come back to the deal, and then we sit on the table within the framework of the 5-plus-one [Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States] and talk whatever issues that are deemed to be talked about.”

Question: “While we're at this deadlock, Iran's nuclear program is increasingly active. You're enriching more uranium. You're using advanced centrifuges. You're restricting IAEA inspections. This is no longer about the nuclear deal and the needs of your country. You are clearly pressuring the Biden administration.”

Salehi: “You see, this issue, the nuclear deal is — it's better to say the fabricated or manufactured issue of the nuclear deal, Iranian nuclear deal. It is a technical issue, but it is politicized.”

“So, it seems we have to use political instruments to resolve.

“Answering your question, I would like to say that we have not restricted the IAEA inspections in Iran. But the other part of the voluntary agreement that we had committed ourselves within the JCPOA, and that was the additional protocol, those, we have put aside.”

Question: “Iran is piling up enriched uranium, I think you're up to 3,000 kilograms, around there, if I'm not mistaken.”

Salehi: “Well, it depends how you measure it. If you measure it in pure uranium, it's about 2,500 kilograms, to the best of my latest information.”

Question: “And you plan on moving forward with enriched uranium?”

Salehi: “Yes.”

Question: “If there's a deal, if the deal is…

Salehi: “Then everything stops. We go back to what we were…”

Question: “What do you do with the excess enriched uranium?”

Salehi: “Then we can settle that. We can sell it. We can turn it into something that would be of mutual agreement, like into fuel.”


Interview with Entekhab News published on Dec. 21, 2020: “What has been said so far by Biden and his advisors indicates that they want to return [to the JCPOA]. If they want to return, we will welcome that, of course, if it is without any precondition.” 

“The latest remarks I have heard from Biden’s advisor, [including his pick for National Security Advisor, Jake] Sullivan and others indicate that, for the time being, they are willing to return [to the JCPOA]... The Islamic Republic has announced unequivocally that we accept no conditions for the return of the United States to the JCPOA. This is out of the question. Now we must wait and see whether they live up to what they say or not.”


Advisor to the Supreme Leader on International Affairs, Ali Akbar Velayati

In an interview with on Jan. 13, 2021: “The Americans proposed that if we limit our peaceful nuclear activities, they will remove sanctions. We did this within the deadline that had been specified and which we had promised the P5+1. But in response, the Americans temporarily removed only some of the sanctions and extended their removal in short time intervals. I mean that from the very beginning they intended to remove them only temporarily. When the next government came to power in America, it was not committed to this obligation at all. No matter what government is in power in America, if it makes a commitment, then that commitment is obligatory for subsequent governments also. We fulfilled our commitments, but they did not. Naturally if they want to return to the JCPOA, they must remove sanctions as they had promised to do.

“In obedience to America, three other western countries - France, Germany and England, which represent the European Union - also imposed many limitations on us. In a way it may be said that they imposed indirect sanctions. However, out of the P5+1, Russia and China helped us as much as they could and fulfilled their commitments. When the Americans have such a bad record in fulfilling their commitments, we have the right to distrust them. If they do return and want to restart negotiations while they have not yet fulfilled their previous commitments, this is not acceptable at all. In addition, we have already experienced losses, and they should recompense us for those losses.

“We are not going to insist on America’s return [to the JCPOA], and we are in no rush. But if they do want to return, then there are some preconditions. The most important one is the removal of sanctions for us to be ensured that the new government is committed to the American obligations under the JCPOA. That is to say, they should announce this commitment and the American president should also make a commitment. Obama, the president of the U.S. at that time, was initially supposed to make a commitment. The precondition set by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution was that the American president makes a written commitment that he could not deny later on. Although they said an oral commitment is enough, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution did not consent to this. Unfortunately, an oral commitment was only made, which they did not fulfill later on. The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution did not even accept the snapback mechanism [for sanctions], and it was done against his will. This mechanism must definitely be put aside as it is an illogical principle if there are going to be any subsequent negotiations.

“What is worth noting in this respect is that we are in need of scientific development and nuclear medicine, and this requires 20 percent enriched uranium. Our nuclear scientists were able to judiciously and efficiently produce 20 percent enriched uranium, which is needed for diagnostic and therapeutic activities in medicine. This measure adopted by the Parliament, and the government was very important and absolutely legal. We did not make any commitment not to engage in activities that have to do with peaceful, medical, nuclear applications. Therefore, this was a very good step and showed that whenever Iran decides to produce highly enriched uranium, it can easily do so.

“Any government that is a member of the NPT has the right to benefit from peaceful nuclear sciences. The nuclear industry, as a parent industry, is related to about 500 industrial and scientific fields. No country can deprive itself of peaceful nuclear energy in the current age. Fossil fuels will finish sooner or later, and we need to use nuclear sciences for producing electricity and energy and for advancing industrial and scientific endeavors. If the Islamic Republic is not self-sufficient in this respect, it will come under the pressure of those who have nuclear energy. Iran will not consent to this since this is in conflict with its independence.

“Others showed that they are not committed to their obligations. Therefore, we surely need to benefit from peaceful nuclear sciences. However, with the commitments we have made under the JCPOA, our activities will be limited for a short period of time. But from 2025 onwards, these limitations will be removed. Due to the commitment that we have both religiously and internationally, as the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution pointed out, using nuclear weapons is prohibited. Other than this exception, any other application (other than nuclear weapons) is permissible and necessary for us, and we will use this with God’s grace. We will never separate ourselves from the nuclear industry, and we will never deprive ourselves of it.

“Therefore, we will take the required measures with regard to the future of our country in the way that is good for the nation and as required by our country’s interests. This will be done in the framework of international laws and national requirements. And without a doubt, we will not accept the impositions of the Americans or the non-Americans. In fact, the most important feature of the Revolution was its saving us from dependence. With the Iranian Islamic Revolution, the hands of the Domineering Powers were cut off for all purposes and Iran was emancipated. If we accept that others determine what our interests are or make decisions on our behalf, it means that we have lost the independence our people have strived for decades to gain. We will surely not do that which is in conflict with our independence.”


Senior Advisor to the Supreme Leader, Ali Larijani

In an interview with on Jan. 13, 2021: “I believe they [Americans] cannot return to the JCPOA if they do not remove sanctions.” 

“America’s sanctions are 100% against their commitments and they cannot return [to the deal]. It is absolutely unacceptable that they say ‘we will return and then negotiate’. Their return depends on fulfilling their commitments.”

“The basic principle is that the sanctions should be lifted. There is no doubt on this issue and if they do not do this, they cannot join [the JCPOA] because they have not met their obligations. A road map is needed for how to do this, and if they think that they can fool Iran with, for example, one chocolate, that will show their lack of vigilance.”

Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani


Presidential Chief of Staff Mahmoud Vaezi 

Statement on Nov. 25, 2020: “Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced today that if they return to the agreement as it was on January 20, 2017, the day when Mr. Trump took office, then we will be ready to return to that, too.”

“We are not going to sit down for talks and discuss every provision of the JCPOA. … I believe we shouldn’t behave as if some fresh negotiations are to be held on the JCPOA.”

“Talks on the JCPOA have already been held, and they resulted in a framework, which has gone through its stages both in Iran and in other countries.”

“What has happened is that countries, especially the United States, failed to make good on their commitments. Our most important demand and condition is that all signatories to the JCPOA, both Iran and other parties, must respect their obligations under the deal.”


Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh

Remarks on March 3, 2021: “We have no bilateral talks with the United States, and unless the U.S. corrects its wrong path, there will be no change in Iran’s policies. Look, up to now, almost two months since the Biden administration took office, they have not officially declared their return to the JCPOA, even verbally. This is a historic shame for Mr. Biden, who had set up his presidential campaign in a different way. But in practice, we are seeing a different administration. Nice words have been uttered sporadically here and there, and we have heard these words, but we want action and don’t base our policies on words. In other words, we will reciprocate the other side’s action proportionately. It’s bitter that the JCPOA is being put on the verge of collapse by the U.S. administration and the same people who negotiated it. A historic responsibility will fall on their shoulders, and history will not forget.” 

“It is the U.S. that, as the violator of the JCPOA, must return to its commitments if it wants to return to the negotiating table.”


In remarks to the press on Feb. 28, 2021: “There has been no change in America’s positions and actions.”

“The Biden administration has not set aside Trump’s maximum pressure policy, nor has it announced its commitments.”

Given the recent moves and positions of the U.S. and the three European countries, the Islamic Republic doesn’t assess the timing of an informal meeting proposed by the EU coordinator as appropriate.” 

“The path ahead is very clear: The U.S. should end its illegal and unilateral sanctions and return to its JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] commitments.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran will respond to actions with action, and just as it will return to its JCPOA commitments with the removal of sanctions, it will also answer in kind to all hostile measures and behaviors.”

In remarks to the press on Feb. 21, 2021: “This news is not true as stated and there is no direct dialogue between Iran and the United States in any field.” 

“Our priority is the release of Iranian prisoners in the United States.”

[Khatibizadeh was responding to White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who earlier that day had said the Washington had been in contact with Tehran about American detainees in Iran. Iran said communications had gone through the Swiss, who represent U.S. interests in Tehran.]


Press conference on Nov. 9, 2020: “It would be naive to think that it is possible to renegotiate the JCPOA. The deal has been struck and sealed.”

“Iran has announced repeatedly that the JCPOA relates to the past and could not be discussed again or renegotiated.”

“The parties to the JCPOA have different commitments, the most important of which has been the commitment to remove the sanctions. Apart from the US’ withdrawal (from the JCPOA), the other parties have sadly failed to lift the sanctions as well.”

Press conference on Dec. 7, 2020: “Iran's stance on the nuclear deal is firm and unchangeable. We don’t see the need to renegotiate the provisions of the JCPOA. We will not re-negotiate what has already been negotiated.” 

“If the U.S. and E.U. fulfill all their obligations under the JCPOA, Iran will return to its commitments as well.” 

Reaction to the E3 (Britain, France and Germany) statement on Iranian cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Association on Nov. 21, 2020: “Following the United States' withdrawal from the JCPOA and the reimposition of sanctions, and considering Europe's continued failure to live up to its commitments to helping Iran reap the economic benefits of the removal of sanctions as per the JCPOA, the Islamic Republic took nuclear steps according to the articles 26 and 36 of the JCPOA.”

“These steps were taken in full compliance with the JCPOA, and the country has always stressed that they will be reversible once the other parties to the JCPOA implement the deal in full.”

Press conference on Nov. 22, 2020: “Iran will never forget the list of U.S. crimes against the Iranian nation, and in this regard, Iran’s demands from the United States will never change.”

“Iran’s foreign policy is a matter of sovereignty and the policy is formulated and announced based on the national interests of the country,.

“We carefully and vigilantly follow all developments and statements, however until a government is established in the United States, we cannot comment on such issues.”

Press conference on Dec. 7, 2020“Iran's stance on the nuclear deal is firm and unchangeable. We don’t see the need to renegotiate the provisions of the JCPOA. We will not re-negotiate what has already been negotiated.”

“If the U.S. and E.U. fulfill all their obligations under the JCPOA, Iran will return to its commitments as well.”

Remarks on Jan. 30, 2021“The nuclear accord is a multilateral international agreement ratified by U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which is non-negotiable and parties to it are clear and unchangeable.”

Remarks on Feb. 1, 2021: The Americans “cannot return to the nuclear accord with one signature in the way that they left with one.”

“We’re waiting for U.S. action to effectively undo sanctions, give us access to our own funds, permit easy oil exports and allow the transfer of oil revenue, shipping and insurance.”


Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi

Interview with Press TV on April 7, 2021: “To us, it does not matter what aspirations our opposite sides have about the future of the negotiations. The position of the Islamic Republic of Iran is completely clear and we will not have any talks on other issues."

“If we see that the negotiating parties are seeking to waste time or pursuing other goals, we will stop [participation in] the negotiations at the current level."

“It is worth mentioning that we have no subject such as a step-by-step implementation of commitments on the agenda. All the required measures will be taken in one step.”

Remarks to state-controlled television on April 5, 2021: “We will have no direct or indirect talks with the Americans in Vienna. We will negotiate with the Joint Commission and the P4+1 and will announce our demand and condition for returning to compliance with the JCPOA. We demand that the United States first fulfill all of its obligations and lift all the sanctions it has imposed, and then we will verify and return.”

“Our talks with the P4+1 in Vienna will be completely technical and they will be about the sanctions that should be lifted, the measures that should be done and the sequencing of what Americans should do. There must be verification.”

Remarks at a virtual meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission on April 2, 2021: “Iran will stop its remedial nuclear measures immediately after it verifies the lifting of sanctions.”

“The United States can get back to the deal and put an end to law-breaking in the same way as it left the JCPOA and imposed unlawful sanctions against Iran.”

Interview on Nov. 11, 2020“[W]e are not afraid of Trump's stay in White House, nor are we excited about Biden taking power. We make decisions and take measures based on our own interests.”

“Although there are many changes, the way to return to the JCPOA is not closed. Iran did not leave the negotiating table and the P5+1. It was the U.S. who unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA.”

“If the United States returns to the table of negotiation and JCPOA, all anti-Iran sanctions must be lifted to meet the interests of the Iranian nation.”


Government Spokesperson Ali Rabiei

Remarks on Jan. 26, 2021“The U.S. will not have all the time in the world.”

“We are waiting for the official announcement of their stance as well as the lifting of sanctions.”

“The window of opportunity will not be open forever, either for the U.S. or the European members of the nuclear deal to fulfill their commitments.”

Interview on Nov. 10, 2020: “We hope that the next U.S. administration will stop continuation of previous mistakes and will try to compensate for it. Rejoining the JCPOA and unconditional commitment to all its requirements is the first step in line with correcting these policies.”

Interview on Nov. 12, 2020: “We expect the new White House officials to unconditionally return to all their previous obligations and commitments. In the first step, sanctions and barriers to the transfer of Iranian money must be lifted and the U.S. administration must be held accountable for the damage it has done to the Iranian people during this period.”

“Basically, when we were negotiating with the Obama administration, we were not actually negotiating with the Democratic Party, we were negotiating with the U.S. government, but it was Trump who pushed back his rival party policies and replaced them with hostile policies. Therefore, we will follow the policies, behaviors, and actions of the other party and adopt the necessary policies accordingly.”


Speaker of Parliament Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf

Remarks in parliament on Nov. 15, 2020“Although we are happy over [U.S. President Donald] Trump’s defeat, people’s life and livelihood should not be tied to the victory or defeat of anyone in the White House.”

“It is true that Biden is different from Trump but we should know that in the best case he will not be different from Obama who was the architect of the so-called crippling sanctions.”

“While we know the difference (between Trump and Biden) we believe that the new occupant of the White House has clear aims and his policies have already been implemented.”

“For us the practical action of the Biden administration is important, and we’ll show goodwill only if we see in action the process of oil sale, bank activities and trade of Iranian companies with the world, even though we not optimistic about it.”

Remarks in Parliament on Nov. 18, 2020“Rest assured that the U.S.’s approach toward Iran will not change with the changing of that country’s president.”

“Therefore, in order to change the U.S. approach, we should improve our domestic capabilities. Today, there is this capacity in the country, and definitely, without producing power and progressing in the field of economy as the top priority, this change is not possible.”

Interview on Dec. 4, 2020“If we do not resist against [the West's] greed, we cannot do anything. In this law, we have explicitly stated that at any moment, the parties in the JCPOA fulfill their obligations, we will return to our obligations.”


Assembly of Experts

Statement on Feb. 22, 2021: Iran’s foreign policy is based on “constructive interaction” with the world. “However, renegotiating an already agreed issue with America is the redline of the establishment and we consider talks on our defense and missile issues non-negotiable.”

“The global arrogance knows that the return or non-return of the United States to the JCPOA has no effect on the resistance of the honorable people of Iran, and their return to the JCPOA without the practical lifting of sanctions is not beneficial, but harmful.”

Ambassador Esmaeil Baghaei Hamaneh (representative to U.N. office in Geneva, Switzerland)

Address to the U.N.-sponsored Conference on Disarmament on Feb. 23, 2021: “The onus is on the offending party to return, restart and compensate for the damages as well as to reassure that they would not renege again.”

“There is a path forward with a logical sequence as [Foreign] Minister Zarif recently outlined.”

Some of the information in this article was originally published on December 8, 2020.