Skip to main content
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track on the Olympic Games
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Complete Olympic Games coverage at your fingertips
Your inside track onthe Olympics Games
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a meeting with army's air force and air defense staff in Tehran, Iran, Feb. 7, 2021.

/The Associated Press

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday that Tehran’s “final and irreversible” decision was to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal only if Washington lifts sanctions on the Islamic Republic, Iranian state TV reported.

The comment, as well as U.S. President Joe Biden’s separate statement that the United States would not lift sanctions simply to get Iran back to the negotiating table, appeared to be posturing by both sides as they weigh whether and how to revive the pact.

The deal between Iran and six major powers limited Iran’s uranium enrichment activity to make it harder for Tehran to develop nuclear arms – an ambition Iran has long denied having – in return for the easing of U.S. and other sanctions.

Story continues below advertisement

But former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018, denouncing it as one-sided in Iran’s favour, and reimposed sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy.

“Iran has fulfilled all its obligations under the deal, not the United States and the three European countries … If they want Iran to return to its commitments, the United States must in practice … lift all sanctions,” state TV quoted Khamenei as saying during a meeting with Air Force commanders.

“Then, after verifying whether all sanctions have been lifted correctly, we will return to full compliance … It is the irreversible and final decision and all Iranian officials have consensus over it.”

While Iran has insisted the United States first drop its sanctions before it resumes compliance, Washington has demanded the reverse.

In a segment of a CBS News interview taped on Friday and broadcast on Sunday, Biden said “no” when asked whether Washington would lift sanctions to get Tehran to the negotiating table.

Asked if Iran had to stop enriching uranium first, Biden nodded. It was not clear exactly what he meant, since Iran was allowed to enrich uranium to 3.67% under the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

A senior U.S. official later said Biden meant Iran had to stop enriching beyond the deal’s limits, not that it had to stop enriching entirely before the two sides might talk.

Story continues below advertisement

“They have to stop enriching beyond the limits of the JCPOA,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There is nothing changed in the U.S. position. The United States wants Iran to come back into (compliance with) its JCPOA commitments and if it does, the United States will do the same.”

Iran in January said it has resumed 20% uranium enrichment at its underground Fordow nuclear site, well above the deal’s limit but far short of the 90% that is weapons-grade.

In response to Trump’s withdrawal, Tehran has breached the deal’s key limits by building up its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, refining uranium to a higher level of purity and using advanced centrifuges for enrichment.

Biden has said if Tehran returned to strict compliance, Washington would follow suit and use that as a springboard to a broader agreement on other areas of concern for Washington including Iran’s missile development and regional activities.

Those activities include support for proxies in conflicts roiling countries such as Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

Iran has said it could quickly reverse its JCPOA violations if U.S. sanctions are removed but has ruled out talks on its missile program and its influence in the Middle East, where Iran and Saudi Arabia have fought proxy wars for decades.

Story continues below advertisement

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies