Why China has a deep mistrust of America - GulfToday

Why China has a deep mistrust of America


Demonstrators chant slogans during a rally in front of the former US Embassy commemorating the anniversary of its 1979 seizure in Tehran, Iran. Associated Press

US President Joe Biden has pledged that if Washington returns to the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, the US would only withdraw once again if Iran violates the terms of the agreement. This commitment meets Iran’s demand that the US will not, once again, abandon the deal as it did in 2018 under Donald Trump.

Biden made this commitment in a joint statement with Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the G20 summit in Italy.

The key paragraph of the statement read: “We welcome President Biden’s clearly demonstrated commitment to return the US to full compliance with the (deal) and to stay in full compliance, so long as Iran does the same.” This pledge was welcomed by Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian ambassador to the European Union-sponsored Vienna talks on returning the US to the pact and Iran to compliance with its provisions. These talks were suspended in June due to the Iranian presidential election and have not resumed because the winner, hardliner Ebrahim Raisi has refused to return until he decides Iran is ready — which will be sometime this month, according to Iranian spokesmen.

Biden has clearly come under pressure from the three European governments to re-enter the nuclear deal which he had pledged to do during his 2020 election campaign. However, since taking office in January, Biden has not honoured this promise and has complicated the situation by demanding Iran end its involvement in regional affairs and halt its ballistic missile programme. Iran argues these are separate issues and has refused to meet these demands. On this issue, nothing was said in the G20 statement, indicating that Germany, France and Britain agree with Iran.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has attempted to shed the blame for the building crisis over the deal under which Iran accepted limits to its nuclear programme in exchange for lifting punitive economic sanctions. Although Biden blames Trump for pulling out, his spokesman claim that it is not clear whether Iran is “serious” about returning to compliance.

After Trump abandoned the deal and began to impose 1,500 sanctions, Iran waited for more than a year for the other signatories to the deal — France, Germany, Britain, China, and Russia — to deliver sanctions relief and meet the other terms of the deal. This did not happen because the US has a chokehold on international finance and banking and threatened to sanction any government, business, or individual involved in commerce with Iran. In 2019, Iran began to gradually breach the limits set by the deal for uranium enrichment, introducing banned advanced centrifuges, and curbing inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran contends that its actions are in line with the terms of the nuclear deal which allows Iran to breach its terms if one or more signatories do not meet their obligations.

Fed up with Biden’s procrastination and prevarication, Merkel, Macron and Johnson clearly told him to meet Iran’s demands and re-enter the deal. They and the Iranians expected Biden to honour his verbal campaign commitment to return the US to the deal along with other key international agreements from which Trump withdrew. Biden quickly signed an executive order to rejoin the Paris climate accord but only agreed to hold talks on the Iran agreement.

Biden listened to the ignorant advice of appointees who believed the US could bully Iran into major concessions on its involvement in the affairs of the region and weapons development in exchange for US re-entry and some but not all sanctions relief. To make matters worse, the Biden administration has slapped fresh sanctions on Iran and anyone dealing with Iran, convincing Tehran that Biden was simply following Trump’s failed policy of “maximum pressure” which, in fact he has been. This has deepened Iran’s mistrust of Washington and the Western signatories of the deal.

Iran did not budge and demanded that the US rejoin the deal before Iran would begin returning to compliance by reverting to low-level uranium enrichment, exporting its stockpile of enriched material, warehousing advanced centrifuges for purifying uranium, and granting UN monitors the full range of inspections laid down in the agreement.

Biden failed to see that since the concessions he was demanding were not granted while Iran’s moderate President Hassan Rouhani was in office, they were not likely to be accepted by any successor, moderate or hardline. If Biden had re-entered the deal promptly, a moderate might have been elected president in the June poll. Instead, conservative hardliner Ebrahim Raisi triumphed. He has repeatedly said he seeks to return to the deal but Biden still hesitates.

In response, Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has said there is no need for negotiations and the solution is for Biden to issue an executive order saying he was returning to the nuclear deal and lifting the sanctions imposed by Trump. Iran would then return to compliance.

Tehran believes it is in a strong position for several reasons. Opinion polls in Iran show that the US is highly unpopular with the populace which blames the US for the country’s economic woes and the lack of medical supplies and other essential goods. Iran has focused on rebuilding its economy, expanding its involvement in regional affairs, and developing its missile and drone programmes. Instead of waiting for the remaining signatories of the Iran nuclear deal to deliver sanctions relief, Tehran has pivoted East and made a major 25-year agreement for the sale of its oil to China in exchange for investment.

Iran also counts on countries fed up with US sanctions to evade US sanctions by buying oil and engaging in trade. On the diplomatic plane, Tehran has conducted several rounds of reconciliation talks with Riyadh, a major US ally, with the aim of ending the rivalry between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. If successful, the rapprochement could contribute to the stabilisation of the region at a time the US is focusing on containing China.

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