US in No Rush to Return to Nuclear Deal Before Iran’s Elections

A State Department official said the Biden administration is not considering unilateral sanctions relief

In an interview with Axios, President Biden’s Iran envoy Robert Malley said the administration is in no rush to revive the nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, before Iran’s June presidential elections.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is not running for reelection in June, and his term will finish in August. Rouhani negotiated the JCPOA in 2015 and is in favor of reviving the agreement. His departure could mean a more hardline government that has less patience with the US.

“We don’t intend to base the pace of our discussions on the Iranian elections — the pace will be determined by how far we can get consistent with defending US national security interests,” Malley told Axios. “In other words, we won’t rush or slow things because of the Iranian elections.”

While Rouhani may be on his way out, even the hardline Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has made it clear that Tehran is ready to return to the limits set by the JCPOA once the US lifts sanctions. Regardless of who is elected, it will still be on Washington to revive the agreement since the US is the party that violated it.

Malley said the US is seeking direct talks with Tehran. “Our view is that direct talks are more effective and less prone to misunderstanding, but for us, the substance is more important than the format,” he said.

A State Department official told Axios that the Biden Administration will only consider sanctions relief if it is coordinated with Iran scaling back the activity of its civilian nuclear program.

“Possible US steps with regard to sanctions can be on the table but we need to get into a conversation with Iran, whether direct or indirect,” the unnamed official said. “The president will not take unilateral steps when it comes to removing sanctions. Any substantial move by the US will have to be part of a process in which both sides take actions.”

With President Biden demanding talks before sanctions relief, he is pursuing the exact Iran policy of his predecessor. While Biden officials are paying lip service to the idea of restoring the JCPOA, the quickest way to do it would be to give Iran sanctions relief.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.