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Rouhani Reaches Out To Biden: Iran ‘Will Take The Opportunity’

In cautious outreach to Joe Biden, projected winner of the United States presidential election, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has welcomed an “atmosphere for closer relations and interactions with all friendly countries.”

Speaking at his weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday, November 11, Rouhani highlighted alleged weaknesses of the administration of President Donald Trump, which he said lacked experience in international politics and was “executing the views of domestic hardliners and the Zionist regime [Israel].” Rouhani added that when Trump spoke about Iran he borrowed sentences and terminology from the Israeli leadership.

Rouhani highlighted the chaos in Trump’s relations with its allies in Europe and with China, which he said was a main reason for his electoral defeat. Rouhani called on the US “to honor international commitments,” a reference to Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement and an acknowledgement that it had been achieved through a high level of co-ordination between the US and Europe as well as the participation of Russia and China. Rouhani asked the US not “to belittle” other countries.

Rouhani said that Biden’s expressed readiness to return to the nuclear agreement, known as the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), presented a potential opening for Iran.

“We will take the opportunity whenever conditions for scrapping sanctions are present,” Rouhani said. “Nobody has the right to ruin [such] opportunities.”

Addressing domestic critics, Rouhani urged Iranians “not to sacrifice the national interests to electoral campaigns.” Principlists critical of the JCPOA have long blamed Rouhani both for entering the deal – even though this had required Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s approval – and for Iran’s economic woes. The hardliners will continue their efforts in the run-up to the presidential election in June, when Rouhani is ineligible to stand for a third term.

Rouhani insisted on Wednesday that Iran was “pursuing peace and stability in the region,” while the Trump administration had been “after selling weapons.” Many Iranian officials have not hidden their satisfaction with Trump’s apparent demise and have seized the opportunity to air standard ideological and foreign-policy messages.

But Iran’s main Middle East rivals, Israel and Saudi Arabia, have criticized the JCPOA for failing to address Tehran’s missile program and regional role, and will continue also to highlight its decade-long military involvement in Syria, its organization of Iraqi militias and its support for Houthi forces in Yemen.

There is also talk in Washington and Europe over recalibrating the JCPOA once a Biden administration is in place. German foreign minister Heiko Maas this week expressed openness to such a possibility.

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