The crisis around Iran and the international nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that was signed in 2015 has become one of the main topics on the agenda of the Sochi meeting of Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Washington's and Moscow's positions on this issue differ much. This was confirmed by the Russian minister of foreign affairs at a joint press conference in the wake of the negotiations with the US secretary of state. Lavrov expressed hope that "reason prevails" and the region which "already [has] too much tension" will not get another conflict.
"When I say that we hope a political solution to the Iranian issue is found, this means that we are actually ready to facilitate this process in order to prevent the situation from sliding into a military scenario. It is up to the diplomats to decide how this can be done. I felt that the US side is also committed to finding a political solution," Lavrov said.
Indeed, Mike Pompeo said: "We fundamentally do not seek a war with Iran." However, just a minute later he said replying to a question about the US attack naval group in the Persian Gulf: "We have also made clear to the Iranians that if American interests are attacked we will most certainly respond in an appropriate fashion."
In general, the US secretary of state repeated the well-known position of the White House at the press conference: "the United States will continue to apply pressure to the regime in Tehran until its leadership is prepared to return to the ranks of responsible nations that do not threaten their neighbors or spread instability or terror." And the same old song later on – Iran must stop supporting terrorists in the Middle East and the world in general.
So, the US places in the rank of terrorists Lebanon's Hezbollah, which is a Shia military and political organization, Yemen's Houthi movement and a number of other Shia organizations. "We are looking for Iran to behave like a normal country," Pompeo repeated the mantra once again. He again spoke from the position of Kipling's white man who carries the burden of a complicated civilizational mission. He is the only one who knows what the world should look like.
Having withdrawn from the Iranian nuclear deal (a rather civilized step!), the Trump administration restored sanctions against Iran back in May 2018. Even harsher restrictions took effect last November; Iran is now prohibited from exporting its oil and carrying out operations with US dollars and precious metals on the global market. Concessions for several main importers of Iranian oil had been in place only before this May.
Seeking to crush the Iranian economy by reducing oil exports, which is the main source of revenues for the Islamic Republic, to zero, Washington has now completely abolished all exclusions from sanctions and banned all deals with Iranian oil for such countries as China, India, Turkey, Japan, and South Korea. Therefore, the White House did everything to deprive Iran of its main economic advantages that it had got after signing the JCPOA.
At the same time, the European Union, the United Kingdom, France and Germany (EU+E3) just regretted Washington's blatant breach of its international obligations.
Over the past year Iran has been patiently waiting for Europe to launch the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) that would allow Iran to carry out transactions in euros. The instrument is called to be an alternative to the SWIFT system in which the Americans control all transactions in US dollars. But the things are not moving.
And when and if the INSTEX starts working, then at first only transactions involving humanitarian goods such as medicines, baby food and so on, will be processed. This apparently is not what Iranians are expecting, as humanitarian deliveries don't fall under sanctions in any way. So, the Iranians perceive the long-awaited "engine" for the Iranian economy as just another West's trick.
As a result, Tehran decided to utilize its rights under the JCPOA and announced that it temporarily, for 60 days, suspended its obligations under the deal. Tehran expects that over this period of time Europe will take necessary actions for Iran to use economic advantages under the deal.
Moreover, Iran promised that it wouldn't honor the 3.67% level of enriching uranium and restrictions on heavy-water reactors provided under the deal if the European side fails to fulfill its obligations by time the moratorium expires. Relevant messages were sent to the leaders of all sides that have remained in the JCPOA, including Russia, China and the EU+E3 states.
However, Europe treated Iran's decision as an ultimatum and urged to comply with the obligations. "We reject any ultimatums and we will assess Iran’s compliance on the basis of Iran’s performance regarding its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA and the NPT," the joint statement by European parties to the agreement reads.
Unlike the EU, Russia treated Iran's steps with understanding. After the talks of Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Javad Zarif, who brought a message from President of Iran Hasan Rouhani to President of Russia Vladimir Putin, in Moscow on May 8 the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs came up with a statement.
The Russian foreign ministry highlighted in the statement that Russia would continue building the nuclear power plant in Bushehr, conversing the Fordow facility for producing stable isotopes under the JCPOA and was ready for other joint projects with Iran.