JEDDAH: Iran issued a double challenge to Joe Biden on Saturday just over a week before the new US president is inaugurated.
Tehran said UN nuclear watchdog inspectors would be thrown out of the country unless sanctions are lifted by Feb. 21, while the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) staged a naval show of force in the Arabian Gulf.
The Iranian parliament passed a law in November that obliges the government to halt inspections of its nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to step up uranium enrichment beyond the limit set under Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal if sanctions are not eased.
Iran’s Guardian Council watchdog body approved the law on Dec. 2 and the government has said it will implement it.
“According to the law, if the Americans do not lift financial, banking and oil sanctions by Feb. 21, we will definitely expel the IAEA inspectors from the country,” member of parliament Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani said on Saturday.
Iran began breaching the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2019, in response to US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from it in 2018 and the reimposition of US sanctions lifted under the agreement.
Tehran admitted last week it had resumed 20 percent uranium enrichment at its Fordow underground nuclear facility, further breaching the deal and complicating efforts by Biden to rejoin it.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that Tehran was in no rush for the US to re-enter the deal, but that sanctions must be lifted immediately.
He ruled out any talks over Tehran’s missile program and its regional meddling, as demanded by the US and other major powers.
“Contrary to the US, Iran’s involvement in the region creates stability and is aimed at preventing instability ... Iran’s involvement in the region is definite and will continue,” Khamenei said.
As Khamenei spoke, the IRGC staged a naval parade in the Gulf, to mark the fifth anniversary of the 2016 seizure of two US Navy boats and 10 crew near Farsi island.
State TV said hundreds of boats took part in the parade.
Last week, Iran seized a South Korean oil tanker and its crew in the Gulf, and continues to hold the vessel at the port of Bandar Abbas.
Tehran is aiming to increase its leverage over Seoul before negotiations over $7 billion in Iranian funds frozen in South Korean banks because of US sanctions.