Rouhani: ‘Nuclear Plus’ Is Not On the Table In Vienna
Speaking at a weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday [April 21] President Hassan Rouhani reiterated that Iran was in talks in Vienna to agree the revival of its 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers – the JCPOA, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - and not a new agreement that he called “JCPOA Plus.”
"We want the exact implementation of the JCPOA,” he said. “We are not seeking anything in excess. At the moment the JCPOA has to be implemented, not a word more and not a word less.”
Rouhani said that the United States, which left the JCPOA in 2018, should carry out its commitments under the deal including lifting "any sanctions…imposed with other labels under other pretexts." Once this was done and verified, Rouhani said Iran would reverse steps in its nuclear program taken since 2019 beyond JCPOA limits.
The Iranian president said this could be “very easily” done, adding that "hundreds of billions in damages” sought by Iran for the impact of US sanctions since 2018 could wait.
The Biden administration, while pledged to revive the JCPOA, has expressed the desire for a wider agreement with Iran including Tehran’s interventions in the region and its ballistic missiles. The 2015 deal, achieved when Biden was vice-president, was based on separating the nuclear issue from other matters. The German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in an interview with the German weekly Der Spiegel in December also expressed support for a wider agreement, the same month that all remaining JCPOA signatories – China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia and the United Kingdom – declared that both Tehran and Washington should respect the terms of the agreement.
The phrase “JCPOA plus” has also been used by critics of the agreement – some US politicians, Israel and Saudi Arabia - who argue that Washington should continue stringent sanctions against Iran to force wider concessions.
In response to Maas, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh on December 7 said Iran would not renegotiate the JCPOA, an agreement sanctioned by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, with US support. Khatibzadeh insisted that "what the maximum pressure campaign [of the Trump administration] could not achieve would not be achieved by any other means."
Rouhani's remarks on Wednesday were probably also in response to hardline critics in Iran, who have been accusing his government of negotiating a "JCPOA 2" – a new version of the nuclear deal in which Iran accepted the suspension rather than removal of US sanctions.
This possibility was floated by "an informed source" quoted by Press TV on Tuesday. "The Islamic Republic would by no means settle for the suspension, easing or extending waiver of sanctions. and the bans should entirely be removed," the source said.
Abbas Araghchi, the deputy foreign minister leading Iranian negotiators in the Vienna talks, was quickly dismissive in a tweet in English: "I don't know who the 'informed source' of Press TV in Vienna is, but he is certainly not informed.”