“That’s not the issue, who goes first,” the official said. “The issue is do we agree on what steps are going to be taken mutually.” The official told Reuters that he wanted to dispel the “erroneous” notion that the Biden administration was demanding Iran’s “full compliance” with the JCPOA before the US takes steps to move towards compliance.
“It is absolutely not our position that Iran has to come into full compliance before we do anything,” he said. While the official signaled flexibility in his comments to Reuters, the Biden administration has been making very different statements publicly.
Recently, Biden officials have said they were open to talks with Iran. But early in the administration, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif floated the idea of the two countries taking mutual steps to revive the deal, but the suggestion was quickly dismissed by the US.
Before suggesting talks, US officials were calling on Iran to act first. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said the US would only lift sanctions after Iran returned to the JCPOA limits and after the Biden administration confirmed those steps.
It appears that the Biden administration is trying to blame its failure to revive the deal on Iran by framing Tehran’s hesitance to enter talks now as the Iranians playing hardball, a narrative that Western media outlets are happy to go along with.
Besides the early demands for Iran to act first, Biden officials continue to call for a stricter agreement, and the administration has imposed new sanctions on Iranian officials. Negotiating a new deal before reviving the JCPOA is a non-starter for talks with Tehran, and slapping on new sanctions failed to bring Iran to the table during the Trump administration.