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More than 20 Catholic organizations urge President Biden to return U.S. to Iran Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

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President Joe Biden speaks at the White House in Washington Jan. 26, 2021. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)

WASHINGTON — A contingent of national Catholic organizations has called on President Joe Biden to undertake steps to have the United States rejoin the Iran nuclear deal in an effort to promote peace and international security.

The 26 organizations also said in a Feb. 25 letter that the U.S. could lift economic sanctions against the Iranian government in an effort to bring the country’s leaders back to the negotiating table as a demonstration of “good faith.”

In May 2018, President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, saying it was insufficient in blocking Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The 2015 agreement was negotiated with Iran by China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and the U.S., the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany.

Since its withdrawal, the U.S. has reimposed numerous economic sanctions on Iran that had been lifted under the agreement.

Released by the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, the letter said Iran was complying with the JCPOA when the U.S. withdrew from the deal and that the action by the Trump administration harmed U.S. credibility with partners in the agreement.

“You cannot now leverage that mistrust, especially in an election year in Iran, when hardliners are using U.S. noncompliance to discourage further negotiations,” the letter said.

The U.S. policy of “maximum pressure” sanctions has failed as Iran has stepped up its nuclear weapons development program since the U.S. withdrawal, it said, adding that such sanctions could be lifted “with clear conditions.”

“We have praised the Iran deal as a model of multilateral dialogue and cooperation. We support your efforts, together with our European allies, to renew negotiations with Iran,” the letter writers said.

The letter cited long-standing support for the JCPOA from Pope Francis, who has repeatedly called for dialogue among the parties to achieve lasting peace and understanding.

The JCPOA can be the starting point for future negotiations with Iran on issues of concern, “but the United States must act first to rebuild trust,” the letter said, explaining that Biden’s broader foreign policy agenda may depend upon “this critical immediate first step with Iran.”

The letter also said “diplomacy is the only proven path to addressing” concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program, its sponsorship of terrorism and its proxy wars in the Middle East as well as questions about U.S. nuclear weapons, arms sales and violent interventions in the region.

In addition to the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, signing the letter were 20 religious congregations or their peace and justice ministries, including the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, Franciscan Action Network, Pax Christi USA and VIVAT International, a nongovernmental organization addressing human rights representing 25,000 women religious, religious brothers and priests, based at the United Nations.