Iran's Zarif Gives Antony Blinken 'Reality Check,' Warns U.S. to Remember Trump 'Failure'

Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted a "reality check" to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday, after America's new top diplomat said the U.S. was a "long way" from returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal.

Zarif took to Twitter—which is banned in Iran although senior regime figures use the social network—to warn Blinken and by extension President Joe Biden not to slip back into the "sordid mess" of Washington-Tehran relations under his predecessor Donald Trump.

"Reality check for @SecBlinken: The US violated JCPOA, blocked food/medicine to Iranians, punished adherence to UNSCR 2231," Zarif wrote. "Throughout that sordid mess, Iran abided by JCPOA, only took foreseen remedial measures. Now, who should take 1st step? Never forget Trump's maximum failure," the foreign minister added.

Biden and his top foreign affairs and national security officials want to rejoin the JCPOA, which Trump left in 2018 demanding stricter limits on Iranian nuclear activity, ballistic missile research and regional use of proxy militias.

Since Trump's withdrawal, Tehran has fully ended compliance with the accord, citing American sanctions and the assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani. Iran has now grown its stockpile of enriched uranium, expanded its production capabilities and is enriching uranium to 20 percent—a short technical step from 90 percent weapons-grade material.

The Biden administration has demanded that Tehran return to full compliance with the deal before the U.S. does the same. But Iranian officials have argued that Trump's withdrawal and subsequent "maximum pressure" economic campaign mean it is the president's responsibility to lift the crippling sanctions before Iran scales back its nuclear activities.

Blinken, however, said on Wednesday: "Iran is out of compliance on a number of fronts and it would take some time, should it make the decision to do so, for it to come back into compliance and time for us then to assess whether it was meeting its obligations."

"We are not there yet, to say the least," he told reporters. He did not say which American official would lead talks with Iran, but did say the administration would "bring to bear different perspectives on the issue."

Conservatives in the U.S. and American allies in the Middle East are mobilizing against the deal, which they believe will embolden the regime in Tehran, enable Iran to better fund its regional proxy militias and fail to contain both its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Earlier this week, the head of the Israel Defense Forces made an unusual intervention in foreign policy to warn Biden against rejoining the deal and to threaten military action against Iran.

"Iran can decide that it wants to advance to a bomb, either covertly or in a provocative way. In light of this basic analysis, I have ordered the IDF to prepare a number of operational plans, in addition to the existing ones. We are studying these plans and we will develop them over the next year," Aviv Kohavi said.

"I want to state my position, the position that I give to all my colleagues when I meet them around the world. Returning to the 2015 nuclear agreement or even to an agreement that is similar but with a few improvements is a bad thing and it is not the right thing to do," Kohavi said.

Biden has sought to allay concerns by framing the JCPOA as a platform for a "longer and stronger" broader deal that would cover missiles and other issues.

Javad Zarif pictured at Tehran meeting Iran
Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, pictured at a meeting in Tehran on December 22, 2019. He has offered a "reality check" to Antony Blinken. ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images/Getty