image Photo: Reuters

Window for Iran nuclear talks may close, warns US

Time is growing short to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal with Iran, said a senior United States official.

By Erin Viner

Washington is prepared to be patient, a senior US State Department official said during a telephone briefing to reporters yesterday, while cautioning if the deal is overtaken by Iran’s ongoing nuclear advances that Washington and other JCPOA partners will be compelled to evaluate whether Tehran would ever truly resume compliance.

“We’re still interested. We still want to come back to the table,” the unnamed official was cited by Reuters as saying.

“The window of opportunity is open – it won’t be open forever if Iran takes a different course,” underscored the official.

He declined to say what action the administration of US President Joe Biden might undertake if Iran refuses to return to the negotiations, known in contingency planning as “Plan B.”

“The ‘Plan B’ that we’re concerned about is the one that Iran may be contemplating, where they want to continue to build their nuclear program and not be seriously engaged in talks to return to the JCPOA,” he emphasized.

Even though the Ayatollah Regime signaled on Tuesday that indirect talks to revive the JCPOA with Washington would resume ‘in a few weeks,’ the source pointed out that Tehran has failed to either set a date for the meeting or name a negotiator.

Multi-lateral talks that opened in Vienna last April broke off in June ahead of Iranian presidential elections that saw hardline new leader Ebrahim Raisi take office. It remains unclear, if resumed, the talks would pick up where they left off in June. Raisi was the favored candidate of the Islamic Republic’s radical Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The JCPOA placed limitations on Iranian uranium enrichment to prevent the development of nuclear weapons in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Tehran began openly violating its atomic curbs after then-US President Donald Trump withdrew from the pact in 2018 and re-imposed harsh punitive measures on the Islamic Republic’s oil and financial sector.

Despite Iran’s critical need to lift the crippling US restrictions that have crippled its economy, insiders and analysts expect the new government to adopt a tougher line if or when the Vienna talks would resume.

Other Western powers have also stressed that time is running out as Iran’s atomic program progresses well beyond terms of its deal.

“Time is not on our side with respect to a potential agreement because Iran is taking advantage of the delays in order to compound its nuclear violations, making a return to the JCPOA increasingly complicated,” stressed French Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Anne-Claire Legendre.