US and Iran remain at an impasse over which country will make the first move in returning to the 2015 deal.
Tehran, Iran – Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran will only accept and react to positive action by other parties to its 2015 nuclear deal as it has seen promises broken before.
Khamenei said during a televised speech on Wednesday that Iran has heard a lot of “good talk and promises” that were not only violated, but their opposite came to be.
“This time only action. If we see action from the other side, we will also act. The Islamic Republic will not be satisfied with promises of actions,” he said to the people of Tabriz on the anniversary of their 1978 protests that are considered one of the events that led to the revolution a year later.
In 2018, former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers – which offered sanctions relief in return for curbs on the Iranian nuclear programme – and reimposed harsh sanctions on the country that remain in place today.
The administration of current US President Joe Biden has said it wishes to restore the historic deal but insists Iran must return to all the commitments it started to roll back in 2019 before sanctions can be lifted.
In early February, Khamenei said the “definitive policy” of Iran on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the deal is formally known, is that the US must verifiably lift sanctions first since it unilaterally violated the deal.
Iran, however, has also proposed that European Union foreign policy chief and head of the JCPOA Joint Commission Josep Borrell “choreograph” a simultaneous return to full compliance under the deal by both sides.
Khamenei’s remarks come as Iran is on track to stop the voluntary implementation of the Additional Protocol, which gives broad inspection authorities to the UN’s nuclear watchdog.
As per a law approved by the parliament in December after the assassination of top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, Iran will limit – but not stop – inspections from February 23.
Kazem Gharib Abadi, Iran’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has informed the agency of the move.
He said on Tuesday that Iran will stop some “transparency measures” that relate to the production of yellow cake and uranium enrichment in addition to centrifuge part construction and short-notice inspections.
IAEA Director Rafael Grossi will visit Iran on Saturday to find a solution.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday confirmed the upcoming restriction of inspections but emphasised Iran has and will never seek nuclear weapons.
“As we have said many times, there hasn’t been and will never be any room for weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons, in our country’s defence programme,” he said during a televised cabinet speech.
“This has always been our unified opinion that we will never be after nuclear weapons, but we will be after peaceful nuclear technologies because it is our right.”
Rouhani said Iran does not wish to have any sort of secret nuclear programme, and Khamenei’s fatwa that strictly bans weapons of mass destruction would always remain in place.
Western powers, however, have previously said they believe Iran had a secret nuclear weapons programme that was disbanded in 2003.
Last week, Iran’s intelligence minister Mahmoud Alavi said a “cornered cat” will do unpredictable things and if Western powers drive Iran towards a nuclear bomb it would be their fault.
His remarks drew fire from both inside and outside Iran and several officials reiterated that Khamenei’s fatwa remains unchanged.