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As Biden Seeks New Iran Deal, Zarif Warns He Must Accept 'Transition of Power' to East

Newsweek logo Newsweek 11/18/2020 David Brennan
a person sitting at a table with a laptop: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif speaks during a meeting with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez, in Havana, on November 6, 2020. © YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images/Getty Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif speaks during a meeting with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez, in Havana, on November 6, 2020.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has claimed that President-Elect Joe Biden must accept the shift of world political power "from the West to the East" or his foreign policy platform will fail, as Tehran seeks to fortify its position ahead of January's transition of power.

Zarif gave a wide-ranging interview on Tehran's plans for the new U.S. administration to the Iran Daily newspaper, which was published on Wednesday.

The Mehr News Agency published the transcript of the interview, in which Zarif claimed victory over President Donald Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign and said Iran would be open to working with Biden presuming he meets certain conditions.

"Naturally, during Biden's term in office, the U.S. and Europe would have a more rational relationship with each other," Zarif said, referring to the disagreements between the Trump administration and its Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action co-signatories. Biden has said he wishes to rejoin the JCPOA nuclear deal, from which withdrew in 2018.

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"The U.S. would adopt less unilateral approaches, although it has never completely abandoned such policies," Zarif added.

"The extent of Biden's success or failure on the international scene would depend on his efforts to adapt himself and the U.S. with the transition of power in the world from the West to the East, a global development the unfolding of which has been expedited by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic."

Zarif appeared to be referring to the development of a multipolar global balance of power; the possible beginnings of a shift away from the Pax Americana U.S. hegemony that has held sway since the end of the Cold War.

The rise of China, a more aggressive Russia and frays in the transatlantic U.S.-Europe relationship have all undermined American global leadership. The Trump administration's unilateral and at times chaotic foreign policy have contributed to this shift.

But for all the predictions of the end of American supremacy, the U.S. military remains the largest, most advanced and best funded force on the planet by some distance. Though Trump's term exposed cracks in U.S. alliances, NATO is continuing to grow and the world's liberal democracies are hoping for a rejuvenating effect from Biden's presidency.

Still, American adversaries like Iran, China, Russia, North Korea and Venezuela have all sought to amplify the multipolar trend and expand cooperation to challenge Washington, D.C. This includes the JCPOA, over which Russia and China have lent Tehran support despite American protests.

"Any attempt aimed at preventing such a power transition will be doomed to failure, a result achieved by Biden's predecessors," Zarif claimed. On the JCPOA, Zarif said: "If Biden seeks to return to the JCPOA, he will have to fulfil U.S. commitments under the deal and lift the sanctions."

Iran began violating elements of the JCPOA piecemeal after Trump withdrew the U.S. from the deal, vowing—but ultimately failing—to negotiate a stricter agreement. Iran ended all compliance after the American assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in January.

Iran has now expanded its low-enriched uranium stockpile to 12 times that allowed by the JCPOA. Uranium enriched to 90 percent purity can be used for nuclear weapons, while low enriched uranium of between 3 and 5 percent can be used for nuclear power.

Tehran is also spooling up its rate of enrichment and the level to which the uranium is enriched, both in violation of the JCPOA. The regime has said it is willing to return to complain with the original deal if the other signatories do the same.

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