Iranian President-Elect Rejects Biden Meeting and Refuses Negotiations

Iran says it will abandon nuclear talks, as hardline president takes office

Iranian ultraconservative cleric and presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi casts his ballot for presidential election, in Tehran, on June 18, 2021. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP) (Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)
June 21, 2021

Iran’s newly elected hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, said in his first press conference on Monday that he will not allow negotiations to take place on the country’s contested missile program, which includes long-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. He also said that he will not agree to any future meetings with President Joe Biden.

Raisi, a former chief justice who authorized the murder of thousands of dissidents, also said Iran will not agree to any new nuclear agreement without the Biden administration first unilaterally lifting all economic sanctions on the country. The country also announced during the weekend that it is likely to abandon negotiations with the United States in the near future.

Raisi’s comments, his first since winning an election Friday that was widely seen as rigged, are a sign the president intends to take a more hardline approach to diplomacy with America. The Biden administration is engaged in talks with the Islamic Republic in Vienna and had hoped a new deal would be finalized before the election. Raisi's rise to power is likely to complicate these efforts, particularly in light of his decision to take the ballistic missile portfolio off the table.

"We urge the U.S. Government to live up to its commitment to this agreement. Regional and missile issues are not negotiable," he said in comments carried by the country’s state-controlled press. "An issue has been negotiated and agreed upon, and a contract has been concluded, and they have committed to it but have not acted on it. Now, how do they want to negotiate new topics?"

The Biden administration, like the Trump administration before it, is hoping to impose restrictions on Iran’s construction of missiles that could be used as part of its nuclear weapons program. The 2015 nuclear accord did not address the issue, and Iran has since undertaken efforts to build more sophisticated mid- and long-range missiles.

Raisi said there will be no agreement with the United States until it lifts all of the sanctions imposed by the former administration. While the Biden State Department has already unwound a range of sanctions on Iran, including those on its regional terrorism enterprise, Raisi is demanding much more.

"My strong suggestion to the U.S. government is to act promptly to lift all sanctions and show that they are honest by lifting all sanctions," he said. Raisi also instructed European powers involved in the negotiations to "not be influenced by American pressure."

Meanwhile, Iranian deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi, who is helming negotiations in Vienna, said on Sunday that no deal will be signed without a firm guarantee from the United States that sanctions are never reimposed. This demand is not likely to be fulfilled, however, as Republican hawks in Congress pursue a range of efforts to maintain sanctions and prevent the Biden administration from lifting any more. Lawmakers in the House and Senate are currently investigating the State Department’s recent decision to lift sanctions, which they say was done without congressional consultation.

"We need to achieve guarantees to make sure that what the former U.S. administration did, in terms of reimposing the sanctions and the [nuclear deal] exit, would not take place again," Araghchi was quoted as saying. "One of our serious discussions in these negotiations is to make sure that the U.S. action in leaving [the deal] would not be repeated."

Without these guarantees, he added, "our return to the [accord] would be impossible to us."

Published under: Ebrahim Raisi , Iran