Rouhani’s Offer of Phased Nuclear Deal Return Rebuked at Home

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani held out the option of a gradual return to the 2015 nuclear deal for his country and the U.S., appearing to soften previous assertions that the Biden administration must lift all American sanctions at once for progress to be possible.

Tehran was ready to fully recommit to the agreement’s terms once the U.S. did so, Rouhani told a televised cabinet meeting on Wednesday. But it would also consider a phased return by both parties, he said, while again stressing that it was up to Washington to make the initial move.

“We’re ready for full commitments in exchange for full commitments, or partial commitments in exchange for partial commitments,” Rouhani said. “If you return, you will experience better conditions and you’ll see it’s in the interests of all the people in the region.”

The offer was swiftly denounced in reports by Iran’s state broadcaster and semi-official news agencies closely aligned with conservative factions and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Their opposition signaled the uphill battle Rouhani faces at home, as well as in Washington, as he seeks to salvage the accord in the final months of his presidency.

“A step-by-step move toward lifting sanctions is not acceptable to Iran,” semi-official Tasnim news agency and state-run Press TV reported, without naming any source for the statement. It was unclear whether the unusually public and brazen rebuke would force Rouhani to U-turn on his statement.

U.S. President Joe Biden has pledged to rejoin the accord that was abandoned by his predecessor in 2018 but he faces strong political opposition at home to removing Trump-era sanctions on the Islamic Republic, including on its vital oil exports.

Iran gradually ramped up uranium enrichment and limited the scope of United Nations inspections of its nuclear sites in response to the American penalties. European signatories to the deal are attempting to bring Iran and the U.S. together to ease a years long standoff that has fueled tensions in the Persian Gulf and at times taken the region close to war.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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