President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are under fire for suggesting that Iran could continue talks with the United StatesÂ after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
In a video recently released by Iranian media, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force Esmail Ghaani criticizesÂ the idea of speaking with the United States.Â Ghaani, who took over the Quds Force after the United StatesÂ assassinated the previous commander, Qasem Soleimani, said that Iran is under a new era in the region andÂ would be on the defensive.Â
In reference to the nuclear deal, which the United StatesÂ exited in 2018 after signing it in 2015, Ghaani said, â€œIgnorance is part of their nature and cowardice of their existence;Â every day you witness how the heads of states sign a paper and in utter rudeness and shamelessness before the world, they undermine their own signature.Â They have no ability to negotiate.â€
Itâ€™s unclear when Ghaani made these remarks, but that conservative Iranian mediaÂ published them today suggests that conservatives in Iran, even though they may want a reentry of the United StatesÂ into the nuclear deal and the removal of sanctions, do not want direct Iran-US talks similar to those that occurred under theÂ Obama administration.Â
Amir Abdollahian, adviser to theÂ parliament speaker and former deputy foreign minister of Arab affairs, also discussed the possibility of Iran-US talks, saying that removing sanctions would be a priority and Iran can be trusted to keep its word. However, he added that both Donald Trump and Biden would be different in how they approach Iran, andÂ neither is a â€œfriend to the Islamic Republic and are not the keyâ€ to solving all of the countryâ€™s problems.
Zarif had recently said in an interview with the Islamic Republic News AgencyÂ that the US reentry into the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), would not be complicated. He said that if the United StatesÂ reenters its obligations under UN Res. 2231, then Iran would reenter its obligations under the JCPOA. The United StatesÂ exited the nuclear deal in May 2018 and reapplied US sanctions on Iran, limiting Iranâ€™s ability to sell its oil and causing a great deal of damage to the countryâ€™s economy. Zarif also said that if the United StatesÂ wants to rejoin the JCPOA, then Iran is ready to â€œnegotiate termsâ€ for US â€œparticipant status.â€Â Â
Zarifâ€™s interview was conducted with the Islamic Republic News Agency, which operates under the administration. The interview, which was alsoÂ translated into English, clearly was conducted to have an international audience.
Rouhani was also quick to signal that Iran would be open to an improvement in relations, even if not talks, at the moment. â€œThe topic is not negotiations with America;Â itâ€™s another topic,â€ Rouhani said. â€œThe new administration can return to [following] rules.â€ He said that under such a situation, â€œWe can slowly move from a direction of threats to a direction of opportunity.â€
The Rouhani administration only has five months to normalize international issues before another Iranian administration takes office. Rouhani will beÂ keen to at least see that the JCPOA in decent shape before leaving. Conservatives, while wanting the removal of sanctions, will be eager to paint Rouhaniâ€™s eightÂ years in office as a loss. Vatan-e Emrooz, the conservative paper, tried to sum up the Rouhani administration with their front page of Rouhani and Zarif hugging with the large headline, â€œLoser.â€