Iran Says U.S. 'Growing Weaker' Daily Amid Nuclear Tensions

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has dismissed the U.S. as a power "in decline," as negotiators from both nations try to find a way to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal at talks in Vienna.

Speaking with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega by phone on Wednesday, Raisi urged his counterpart to resist U.S. sanctions in the same way Tehran has done since May 2018, when former President Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA and embarked on his "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran.

"We are certain that Nicaragua too can overcome the U.S.'s threats and sanctions since today the U.S. is in decline, and is growing weaker day by day," Raisi told Ortega, according to a readout published by Iran's state-owned PressTV.

"The [international] hegemonic system cannot impose its will on the Islamic Republic and Nicaragua since the countries rely on their peoples' votes and support, and can [therefore] stand up to hegemonic powers' excessive demands," Raisi added.

Nicaragua was put under U.S. sanctions due to Ortega's authoritarian suppression of political opponents and electoral fraud. In November, President Joe Biden's administration introduced new measures against the Nicaraguan Public Ministry and nine Nicaraguan government officials.

In a statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the measures were a response to the "November sham election," which followed "months of repression and the imprisonment of 39 individuals, including seven potential presidential candidates, opposition members, journalists, students, and members of civil society."

Ortega told Raisi that Nicaragua "stands by the Iranian nation on all international arenas."

The long-time close ties between the two nations have raised concerns in the U.S. that Nicaragua is offering Tehran a window into the Americas, particularly for Iranian-allied armed proxy groups such as Hezbollah.

Iran, too, remains under a wide range of American sanctions following Trump's withdrawal from the JCPOA. Talks to revive the deal resumed on Monday in Vienna: the eighth round of negotiations.

American and European representatives have warned that time is running out to reach an accord, while U.S. and Israeli officials have been hinting at military action absent a diplomatic solution.

Iranian and Russian diplomats have, however, reported positive developments from the latest round of talks.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Tuesday: "The Vienna talks are headed in a good direction ... We believe that if other parties continue the round of talks which just started with good faith, reaching a good agreement for all parties is possible."

Iran has repeatedly demanded that all Trump-era sanctions be lifted before it returns to compliance with the JCPOA's restrictions on Tehran's nuclear program. Sanctions blocking Iran from foreign sales of crude oil—a vital contributor to government income—have been particularly punishing.

Trump's withdrawal from the JCPOA, and the assassinations of Major General Qassem Soleimani and nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, prompted Iran to move further and further from JCPOA limits.

Iran has grown its enriched uranium stockpile, enhanced its enriching capabilities, and has been enriching uranium to near weapons-grade quality. Iran's breakout time—the time needed to build a nuclear warhead—could soon be only a matter of weeks, Blinken has warned.

Ebrahim Raisi speaks in parliament in Tehran
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi delivers a speech during a parliament session on the occasion of Parliament Day in Tehran, Iran on December 1 2021. ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images