White House says Biden 'head nod' didn't signify shift on Iran

White House says Biden 'head nod' didn't signify shift on Iran
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President Biden’s position that Iran must come back into compliance with the nuclear deal before the United States returns to it is unchanged, the White House said Monday after the president appeared to suggest a shift in an interview over the weekend with a head nod.

“Overall his position remains exactly what it has been, which is that if Iran comes into full compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA, the United States would do the same and then use that as a platform to build a larger and stronger agreement that also addresses other areas of concern,” White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Rocky US alliances as Biden heads to UN assembly Five things to watch as Biden heads to the UN Biden to get COVID-19 booster on camera once fully approved MORE said at a briefing, using the acronym for the Iran nuclear deal’s official name.

Psaki was responding to questions regarding Biden’s answers about the Iran deal in an interview with CBS News that aired Sunday.

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In the interview, "CBS Evening News" anchor Norah O'Donnell asked Biden whether the United States would lift sanctions on Iran first in order to get Tehran back to the negotiating table.

"No," Biden replied.

"They have to stop enriching uranium first?" O'Donnell then asked.

Biden did not verbally answer but nodded his head up and down as if answering in the affirmative.

The 2015 nuclear deal does not prohibit all uranium enrichment. But Iran has exceeded the enrichment limits laid out in the deal, stockpiling more than is allowed and enriching to 20 percent purity rather than the deal’s 3.67 percent cap.

On Monday, Psaki denied Biden’s nod was meant to signal any change in his position.

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“I think if we were announcing a major policy change, we would do it in a different way than a slight head nod,” she said.

Iran began breaching the limits of the nuclear deal after former President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE withdrew the United States from the Obama-era pact and began reimposing harsh sanctions on Tehran.

Biden administration officials have repeatedly said they would rejoin the deal if Iran comes back into full compliance.

But Iran and the Biden administration are now locked in a stalemate as to who will make the first move. Iran insists the United States should act first and lift sanctions because it is the one that first broke from the deal.

“It was the United States that left the deal,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told “Fareed Zakaria GPS” in an interview that aired Sunday. “It was the United States that violated the deal. It was the United States that punished any country that remained respectful and compliant with the deal. So it is for the United States to return to the deal, to implement its obligations.”