Biden administration envoy pushes back against criticism of Iran strategy

WASHINGTON (AP) — A senior Biden administration official on Monday pushed back against growing criticism from Iranian-American activists who are calling on the White House to abandon efforts to resuscitate the Iran nuclear deal.

US special envoy to Iran Robert Malley said the administration “makes no apologies” for “trying to do everything we can to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.” The White House grew increasingly pessimistic about reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, but refrained from declaring the deal dead.

The White House has faced mounting pressure to scupper the deal following the Islamic government’s brutal crackdown on a women-led protest movement and Tehran’s decision to send in hundreds of drones to Russia for use in its war in Ukraine.

Malley said what was lost in the debate was that while the administration was pursuing an Iran nuclear deal, it was also continuing to impose sanctions on Iranian officials.

The administration announced sanctions against Iranian officials for the brutal treatment of protesters after the death last month of a young Iranian woman while in the custody of Iranian security forces. The administration also hit Iran with sanctions for providing drones and technical assistance to Russia and ordered US military strikes in August against Iran-backed militias in Syria in response to attacks on US forces. In the region.

“I think people have to understand that they weren’t tying our hands because of… this hope that one day maybe there will be a deal,” Malley said during an appearance at a hosted virtual event. by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank. “No, we are taking action. We don’t wait. We take actions that we deem consistent and necessary to promote our values ​​and national security interests.

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The Biden administration this month imposed new sanctions on Iran following a crackdown on anti-government protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. Morality police arrested Amini last month for failing to properly cover her hair with the Islamic headscarf, known as the hijab, which is compulsory for Iranian women. Amini collapsed in a police station and died three days later.

At least 270 people have been killed and 14,000 arrested, according to the group Human Rights Activists in Iran. Protests continued, even as feared paramilitary Revolutionary Guards warned young Iranians to stop.

The White House also said Iranian troops are “directly engaged on the ground” in Crimea to support Russian drone attacks on Ukrainian power plants and other key infrastructure. The Iranians provided the technical assistance after selling the Russians – desperate for precision-guided weapons – hundreds of drones. The Iranian government has denied selling drones to Moscow or providing assistance.

The Iran nuclear deal is already on the verge of collapse despite President Joe Biden’s efforts to revive it since August, with his administration claiming Tehran has sought to introduce foreign issues into the indirect talks. Yet the administration has not given up hope of recovery.

The pact, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, would provide Tehran with billions of dollars in sanctions relief in exchange for the country agreeing to reduce its nuclear program to limits set by the 2015 agreement.

The deal was brokered by the Obama administration before being scrapped by the Trump administration in 2018. It includes caps on enrichment and the amount of material Iran can stockpile and limits the operation of advanced centrifuges necessary for enrichment.


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