October 17, 2021

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Iranian President Raisi lambasts U.S. at first UN speech, Biden proposes compliance to nuclear deal – CNBC

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Presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a campaign rally in Tehran, Iran June 15, 2021.

Majid Asgaripour | WANA News Agency | Reuters

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi ripped into the U.S. in his first U.N. speech, castigating it for its sanctions on Iran, its overseas military interventions and the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol building in Washington.

“From the Capitol to Kabul, one clear message was sent to the world: the U.S.’ hegemonic system has no credibility, whether inside or outside the country,” Raisi said. 

The speech, delivered remotely in a pre-recorded video message late Tuesday for the U.N. General Assembly, marked a significantly harsher tone than that of Raisi’s predecessor Hassan Rouhani, who had aimed for rapprochement of sorts with Washington.  

Rouhani lost substantial popularity after the 2015 Iran nuclear deal he negotiated with the Obama administration and other world powers all but collapsed following the Trump administration’s withdrawal from it in 2018. That withdrawal was followed by sweeping U.S. sanctions on Iran that have crippled its economy and sent its currency to record lows.  

The 2015 deal, also known as the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), lifted economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs to its nuclear program. 

“Sanctions are the U.S.’ new way of war with the nations of the world,” Raisi said in his speech, adding that imposing such penalties during the coronavirus pandemic were “crimes against humanity.”   

President Joe Biden also delivered his first U.N. speech as president earlier in the day, but stressed his administration’s willingness to rejoin the nuclear deal with “full compliance” if Tehran did the same.  

“The United States remains committed to preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. We are working with the P5+1 to engage Iran diplomatically and seek a return to the JCPOA,” Biden said. 

The remarks are a clear turnaround from the Trump administration’s Iran policy and represent a core foreign policy aim of the Biden White House: to revive the nuclear deal and a diplomatic legacy of the Obama years. Biden’s stated aims have rattled Iran hawks, who warn against trusting the Iranian regime or allowing them to enrich uranium at all.

Despite Raisi’s critical broadside and his long-held anti-Western stance, the Iranian leader still did not rule out returning to negotiations on the JCPOA and that talks could be useful, if only to achieve the lifting of sanctions on Iran.  

Still, Raisi added, “We don’t trust the promises made by the U.S. government.” 

A view of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility 250 km (155 miles) south of the Iranian capital Tehran, in this Maxar Technologies satellite image taken last week and obtained by Reuters on April 12, 2021.

Maxar Technologies | via Reuters

Indirect negotiations that began earlier this year, mediated by European parties, have since stalled.  

This all comes as Tehran increases its uranium stockpiling and enrichment in gradual breaches of the 2015 accord, which it says is in response to U.S. sanctions. Iran announced in late May that it was enriching uranium at 60%, a dramatic departure from the 3.67% level permitted under the JCPOA.

Following the news, International Atomic Energy Agency Director Rafael Grossi sounded the alarm, saying: “A country enriching at 60% is a very serious thing — only countries making bombs are reaching this level.”

“Sixty percent is almost weapons grade, commercial enrichment is 2, 3 [percent],” Grossi said in May. Iranian officials contend that the enrichment is their country’s sovereign right, and that their nuclear activity remains for peaceful purposes and can be walked back if the U.S. lifts its sanctions.

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