U.S. officials are increasingly pessimistic about the prospects of returning to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, The New York Times reported on Saturday.
The United States is indirectly involved in Iran’s talks with world powers to revive the deal that granted Iran some relief from international sanctions in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.
Officials expect Tehran’s new government, which is due to take office on Thursday, to take a tougher approach that could jeopardize the chances of reaching a deal.
“There is a real risk here that they will come back with unrealistic demands on what they can achieve in these talks,” Robert Malley, the main US negotiator, told the newspaper.
Another major concern in Washington, according to the report, is that after months of increased uranium enrichment to near-weapon levels, Iranian scientists are gaining crucial technical knowledge that will make the terms of the deal. 2015 insufficient to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
“At this point, we’ll have to reassess the way forward,” said Malley. “We hope it doesn’t come to that.”
Moreover, as Iran insists that any return of the United States to the deal be accompanied by a mechanism that will prevent it from resigning again, American officials believe it will be politically impossible to do so. pass such a restriction through Congress, which is very skeptical. of the agreement in the first place.
The ability to reverse sanctions against Iran if it fails to comply with certain aspects of the deal is crucial to keeping it acceptable to US lawmakers, they said.
On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said nuclear talks with Iran “cannot go on indefinitely” but that Washington was “fully ready” to continue negotiations.
The deal was torpedoed in 2018 by then-US President Donald Trump, who unilaterally withdrew from the deal and imposed punitive sanctions.
“We are committed to diplomacy, but this process cannot go on indefinitely … we are looking to see what Iran is ready to do or not ready to do and we remain fully ready to return to Vienna to continue negotiations,” he said. Blinken said during a visit to Kuwait. “The ball remains in Iran’s court.
The government of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had been in talks with the big powers in Vienna since April to bring Washington back to the deal. But talks were frozen until he handed over to President-elect Ebrahim Raisi.
Raisi’s ultra-conservative camp, which deeply distrusts the United States, has repeatedly criticized Rouhani over the 2015 deal.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday that experience has shown that “trusting the West does not work”, referring to the US withdrawal from the agreement and its fallout.
Raisi said his government would support talks that “guarantee national interests” but will not allow negotiations for the sake of negotiating.
One of the main criticisms of the 2015 deal raised by Trump was its failure to address Iran’s ballistic missile program or its alleged interference in regional affairs.
But Tehran has always refused to include non-nuclear issues in the deal, which is officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Khamenei also criticized the United States for refusing to “guarantee that [it] will not violate the deal in the future “by unilaterally withdrawing, as Trump did in 2018.
Trump’s successor Joe Biden has signaled he is ready to return to the nuclear deal and has engaged in indirect negotiations with Iran alongside formal talks with the other parties to the deal, the Great Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
Israeli newspaper Kan News reported on Sunday that Jerusalem has warned US officials in recent days that Iran is closer than ever to obtaining nuclear weapons.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and other Israeli officials recently raised the issue with their US counterparts, issuing an “unusual warning”, according to the report.
“Something has to happen with the negotiations with Iran,” a senior diplomat told Kan. “This ‘limbo’ cannot be a time when Iran is moving rapidly towards the nuclear threshold.”
Israel has long opposed the nuclear deal and Biden’s stated intentions to re-enter the treaty.
“We would like the world to understand that the Iranian regime is violent and fanatic,” Bennett said last month. “He chose the ‘executioner of Tehran’ as president – a man who is willing to starve his own people for years in order to have a military nuclear program. It is a regime that you should not do business with.
Bennett added that Israel “will continue to consult our friends, persuade, discuss and share information and ideas out of mutual respect. But in the end, we will be responsible for our own destiny, no one else. “
Agencies contributed to this report.