Biden administration turns focus to Iran as Blinken meets with allies
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to State Department officials during U.S. President Joe Biden’s first visit to Washington, DC on February 4, 2021.
Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold a virtual meeting with America’s key European allies on Friday evening to discuss strategy toward Iran, Western diplomats and senior US officials told NBC News.
Blinken will discuss Iran with the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Great Britain. The diplomats will also discuss the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and the situation in Myanmar. The last time the Secretary of State held a call in this format was in 2018, when the US pulled out of the Iranian nuclear deal, according to NBC.
The meeting will take place after President Joe Biden’s National Security Council meets on Friday afternoon to discuss the government’s stance on Iran. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the NSC meeting was part of an ongoing policy review and no announcements would be made.
The developments are the strongest indication so far of Biden’s intention to turn the page of former President Donald Trump’s independent approach to Iran and diplomacy in general, and to return the US to a multilateral foreign policy.
The White House plans to rejoin the Iranian nuclear deal, but insists that Iran return to full compliance first. The Biden administration has promised to consult closely with US allies on their stance on Iran.
Trump withdrew the US from the deal because it did not restrict Iran’s ballistic missile program or address Tehran’s support for militant groups.
Iran withdrew its obligations under the deal when the Trump administration pursued a “maximum pressure” policy by imposing crippling economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif suggested on Monday that Washington and Tehran should return to the deal at the same time, with diplomatic support from the European Union.
However, the Biden administration rejected this proposal.
“As President Biden said, the proposal is on the table that we will be ready when Iran fully complies with the JCPOA again,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday.
The US has not yet had talks with Iran over the nuclear deal, Price said.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the official name of the agreement negotiated under former President Barack Obama to try to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. China, France, Germany, Russia and the UK were also parties.
Last week, Biden named Robert Malley as US envoy to Iran. Malley helped draft the original 2015 Iranian nuclear deal. The move is seen as a diplomatic effort to move forward in the Middle East.
In his first foreign policy address on Thursday, Biden vowed to repair alliances through diplomacy and restore Washington’s leadership position on the global stage.
While not addressing the Iranian nuclear deal, he announced that the US would no longer support Saudi Arabia’s offensive operations in Yemen. The Saudis are fighting there against an armed movement known as the Houthis. Washington and Riyadh accuse Iran of supporting the Houthis.
Biden said the US would continue to help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity, a statement that aims to reassure Riyadh and warn Iran. The Saudis accused Iran of planning an attack on its oil factories in 2019, which forced Riyadh to cut its oil production in half for a short time.
Amanda Macias of CNBC contributed to this article.