Iranian President Hassan Rouhani once again signaled his government’s readiness for full compliance with the multilateral Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). But such a development, according to Rouhani, will take place after the incoming administration of US President-elect Joe Biden reinstates Washington’s membership in the deal, from which President Donald Trump withdrew in May 2018.
“All it takes is a signature [from Biden], and in no time we will all be back at where we used to be,” Rouhani said, attacking Trump, “the uneducated, business-minded man, who drew scrambled lines [his signature] on the paper” before pulling Washington out of the JCPOA.
In May 2019, Iran began “reducing commitments” under the JCPOA, a decision it said was meant to push the European signatories into providing Tehran with the accord’s economic benefits, which were missing after the US withdrawal. But the Trump administration’s pullout was also coupled with its “maximum pressure” policy that continues to squeeze the Iranian economy. The Rouhani government is counting the days with hopes of rapprochement with the incoming Democratic leader for the Oval Office.
“We should make use of the new opportunity for diplomacy,” Rouhani added in his address to the Cabinet on Dec. 9. Such a goal, he argued, will be achieved with unity among political factions. Given the ongoing heightening tensions between the Rouhani government and the hard-line parliament, however, such unity seems far-fetched. The two sides are embroiled in an intense tug of war, which has laid bare their deepest rifts in the public sphere.
Last week, Iranian lawmakers passed legislation that calls for the Rouhani government to make significant breaches of the nuclear deal, including enriching uranium to 20% uranium, which could shatter the very foundations of the accord; Iran had agreed to keep enrichment at 3.67%. While the legislation has been finalized, it does hang in the balance as the Rouhani government continues to express stiff resistance, fearing the measure could destroy prospects of any negotiations with the Western signatories.
In his speech, Rouhani appeared confident about a resumption of Iran’s oil exports that have dwindled enormously under the “maximum pressure” campaign. An updated report by the Iranian parliament’s research center says the country’s oil revenue slumped by 60% between March 2018 and March 2019. And according to Reuters estimates, Iran’s oil production temporarily dropped to as low as 100,000 barrels per day in May, marking the sharpest nosedive from the regular 2.5 million barrels per day Iran enjoyed before Trump’s JCPOA departure.
Looking forward to the post-Trump era, Rouhani said, “Let the world receive this message clearly that the situation for Iranian oil production and sales will be different from what it was two years ago.” The Iranian president said Tehran will be able to produce and sell 2.3 million barrels per day as of the next Iranian year (starting March 21, 2021).