Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during the meeting of the National Combat Board with Coronavirus (Covid-19) on November 21, 2020 in Tehran, Iran.

Iranian Presidency Flyer | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

WASHINGTON – Iran on Sunday declined an invitation from the world powers that signed the 2015 nuclear deal to discuss the regime’s possible return to the negotiating table. This was a major setback to the Biden government’s efforts to revive the agreement.

“Given the recent actions and declarations by the United States and three European powers, Iran does not consider it time to hold an informal meeting with these countries proposed by the EU foreign policy,” said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh Information from the state media in Tehran.

The White House said Sunday that the Biden administration was disappointed with Iran’s decision to skip the informal meeting with the US and the other 2015 Pact signatories – France, Germany, the UK, Russia and China.

“While we are disappointed with Iran’s response, we remain ready to engage in meaningful diplomacy to bring about a mutual return to JCPOA commitments,” a senior administrative official told NBC News.

“We will consult with our P5 + 1 partners about the best way to go,” said the official, referring to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany.

Biden’s government has previously stated that it intends to revive the nuclear deal but will not suspend sanctions until Tehran returns to compliance. Tehran has refused to negotiate as long as the US sanctions remain in place.

The 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) brokered by the Obama administration lifted sanctions against Iran, which had paralyzed its economy and roughly halved its oil exports. In exchange for billions of dollars in sanction relief, Iran agreed to dismantle part of its nuclear program and open its facilities to wider international inspections.

The US and its European allies believe Iran has ambitions to develop an atomic bomb. Tehran has denied this claim.

In 2018, then-President Donald Trump kept an election promise and withdrew the United States from the JCPOA in what was dubbed the “worst deal ever”. After Washington pulled out of the landmark nuclear deal, other signatories to the pact have tried to keep the deal alive.

US President Donald Trump listens during a meeting in Washington, DC, the United States, on Monday, June 15, 2020.

Doug Mills | NYTimes | Getty Images

In a letter published by Sunda ‘, Republican senators warned President Joe Biden not to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal because it was “fraught with problems” and urged a broader deal instead.

“The scope of an agreement with Iran must address all Iranian behavior, including regional terrorism, ballistic missiles and the detention of US nationals. It is not surprising that Iranian proxies support Assad’s ongoing atrocities in Syria, attack our forces and diplomats in Iraq have pushed Lebanon to the brink of collapse, threatened our Israeli and Gulf partners and contributed to the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, “wrote Sens. Jim Inhofe from Oklahoma, Jim Risch from Idaho, Marco Rubio from Florida. Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania and Rob Portman from Ohio in a joint letter to Biden.

“Despite the criticism of the ‘max pressure’ campaign, it cannot be denied that it has cost Iran its malicious activities and is now offering your government an opportunity to get a better deal from Iran. We know Iran cannot be trusted to honor its commitments, “wrote the senators.

Washington’s ongoing stalemate with Tehran

An Iranian walks past striking graffiti on the walls of the former US embassy in Tehran during a protest on November 4, 2018.

Majid Saeedi | Getty Images

Washington’s tense relationship with Tehran deteriorated several times under the Trump administration.

Last year the US carried out an air strike that killed Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s top military commander. Iran retaliated by firing at least a dozen missiles from its territory on Jan. 7 at two military bases in Iraq that housed US and coalition forces.

A day later from the White House, Trump said Iran appeared to be “stepping back” and warned Tehran to give up its nuclear ambitions.

After the deadly US strike, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Trump administration had committed an “act of terrorism”.

Iranian mourners gather in his hometown of Kerman on January 7, 2020 for the final stage of the funeral procession for the assassinated General Qasem Soleimani.

Atta Kenare | AFP | Getty Images

Soleimani’s death led the regime to further reduce compliance with the international nuclear pact. In January 2020, Iran said it would no longer curtail its uranium enrichment capacity or its nuclear research.

In October, the United States unilaterally imposed UN sanctions on Tehran as part of a snapback process that other members of the UN Security Council had previously stated that Washington was not empowered to carry out because it withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018.

A month later, a top Iranian scientist was murdered near Tehran, leading the Iranian government to claim that Israel, with US support, was behind the attack.

A view shows the location of the attack in which well-known Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed outside of Tehran, Iran on November 27, 2020.

WANA via Reuters

In the summer of 2019, a series of attacks in the Persian Gulf set the US and Iran on the way to a more intense confrontation.

In June, US officials said an Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down an American military surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran said the plane was over its territory. That strike came a week after the US blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Persian Gulf region and after four tankers were attacked in May.

In June, the US imposed new sanctions on Iranian military leaders who were held responsible for shooting down the drone. The measures were also aimed at blocking financial resources for Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Tensions rose again in September 2019 when the US blamed Iran for strikes in Saudi Arabia at the world’s largest crude oil processing plant and oil field.

This attack forced the kingdom to cut its manufacturing operations in half and sparked the largest surge in crude oil prices in decades and renewed concerns about a new war in the Middle East. Iran claims it was not behind the attacks.