As a result, “Iran’s nuclear program was no longer in a box, no longer had the most robust inspection regime ever negotiated, no longer had strict restrictions on nuclear activity,” Psaki said at the meeting. ‘a press briefing.
Psaki’s comments come as criticism of the original nuclear deal, concluded in 2015 but abandoned by Trump in 2018, has stepped up efforts to convince Biden to stop trying to revive the deal. Some of the deal’s critics are calling on Biden to prepare to launch military strikes on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Many criticize his administration for failing to enforce existing sanctions against the Tehran regime.
The deal with Iran lifted numerous US and international sanctions against Tehran in exchange for severe restrictions on the country’s nuclear program. After Trump walked out of the deal, saying it wasn’t strong or broad enough, he reimposed US sanctions and piled up new ones, hoping to force Iran back to the table to what Trump promised would be a better deal. Iran initially stuck to the terms of the deal as European countries, furious with Trump, searched for ways to help its economy, but as that aid did not materialize, Iran began to violate parts of the agreement.
Biden took office with a pledge to revive the nuclear deal, but since then Iran has changed governments. It now has a new leadership tougher than the one that struck the nuclear deal, and it has continued nuclear advances. While under the deal Iran would need over a year to build a bomb, that time frame is now reduced to around a month. (Iran, however, insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, not a bomb.)
International talks in Vienna on returning to the Iran nuclear deal are dragging on, with a five-month hiatus thanks to Iran’s change of leadership since last spring. The talks, in which EU officials mediate between Iranian delegates and Biden’s envoys, have yet to iron out some major differences, such as the sequencing of steps towards a deal, analysts said.
Tehran wants the United States to lift sanctions first, giving it access to billions of dollars in frozen funds. Washington is reluctant to lift the sanctions until Iran reverses its advances on its nuclear program. Biden also wants to start talks on a more solid deal going forward.
Discussions so far “are progressing, but they are unacceptably slow from a US perspective,” said Ali Vaez, a prominent Iranian analyst well connected to the International Crisis Group. He added that at this rate, it could be six months before the deal is relaunched, but Iran’s nuclear advances in the meantime could render the terms of the deal irrelevant.
Vaez predicted that if there was no meaningful progress by the end of January, the United States would shift to a more coercive posture. This could include tightening or adding additional sanctions, as well as stepping up discussions with US partners in the Middle East on ways to contain Iran.
Critics of the Iran deal in particular have criticized the Biden administration for not doing more to prevent China from buying Iranian oil; China is a party to the Iran nuclear deal, but it is not always moving at the same pace as the United States on the issue.
If the Iranian position arouses enough frustration, European officials could also decide to allow a resumption of UN sanctions, Vaez said. This process is designed to bypass a possible Russian or Chinese veto, and while its economic effect on Iran may not be enough to change the mullahs regime’s mind on its way given how bad the economy is. Iranian is already bad, it could be a psychological blow to the regime. .
It would also technically mean the end of the Iran nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA. That being said, even if the United States and its partners continue to pressure Iran more, they are still likely to push for ongoing diplomatic talks at the same time, Vaez said.
U.S. officials have not issued an official deadline, but have warned Iran for months that they will not forever tolerate what they see as its reluctance. In December, Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized Trump for quitting the nuclear deal and breaking his promise to come up with a better one, calling Trump’s move “one of the worst decisions in the world. US foreign policy over the past decade ”.
But Blinken also warned Tehran that the time to restore the deal was becoming “very, very, very short.” “What will not last is for Iran to gain time at the negotiating table by failing to engage in good faith and expeditiously, while continuing to develop its agenda,” Blinken said. “It is not a sustainable proposition.”
Psaki addressed Blinken’s point while highlighting US efforts under Biden to rebuild relations with Europe and other countries that were damaged by Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
“We are eager to see the diplomatic path move forward,” she added.
Some arms control experts agree that the original sin that led to today’s tense situation was Trump’s withdrawal from a deal that international inspectors said Iran was respecting. But there is also the feeling that Biden acted too slowly last year to reach out to Iran, and its then more moderate regime, to restart talks on restoring the nuclear deal.
Either way, it’s always worth talking about, said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.
“While President Biden and his team should have acted earlier and faster last year to re-engage with Iran on the steps necessary to restore mutual compliance with the JCPOA, it is still possible – and necessary – that Iranian and US negotiators reach agreement. a win-win deal that prevents a major nuclear crisis, ”Kimball said.