A senior Biden administration official said Thursday that the US and Iran could return to comply with an Obama-era nuclear agreement within weeks, but the decision is up to Tehran.
Ahead of a fourth round of indirect talks between the two sides in Vienna this week, a senior State Department official told reporters on the condition of anonymity that the last three rounds have helped to “crystallize” what both nations need to do to return to mutual compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a multination 2015 agreement aimed at preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon.
According to the official, the issues are fairly straightforward because they are written in the agreement that then-President Donald Trump removed the US from in 2018.
“If Iran makes the political decision that it genuinely wants to return to the JCPOA as it was negotiated,” the official said, “it could be done relatively quickly and implemented relatively quickly.” “However, we do not know if Iran has taken the decision. We don’t know if they’ve agreed to accept a stern collective return to conformity and if they’re willing to do so now.”
To regain enforcement, Washington will have to lift the harsh sanctions levied on Tehran in the aftermath of Trump’s withdrawal. To return, Tehran will have to reverse the retaliatory measures it took to distance itself from the agreement.
“So, is it likely that we’ll see a joint return to compliance or an understanding of a shared return to compliance in the coming weeks? Yeah, that is true. Is this a possibility? The only way to know is to wait and see.”
The senior official said the the Trump administration’s policy has shown that without the agreement, Iran’s nuclear program gallops forward and Tehran becomes more aggressive. President Joe Biden‘s plan is to use the JCPOA to achieve a longer, stronger deal that addresses issues of regional security.
“If Iran is not prepared to do that, the Biden administration will deal with the situation and will do everything it can to make sure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons. So, we’re prepared for that scenario as well,” the official said, adding that returning to the JCPOA is their preferred option.
The talks have been constructive so far, but Iran has made “unrealistic demands,” he said, adding that it has called for more sanctions relief than expected under the JCPOA while making “unrealistic commitments” to uphold its end of the bargain.
When asked whether a settlement could be reached before Iran’s presidential election on June 18, the official replied, “absolutely,” but it is up to Iran.
“If Iran makes that political determination that it is not going to ask more from the U.S. in terms of sanctions relief than what a return to compliance with the JCPOA requires and it’s not going to do less in terms of its nuclear commitments than a return to compliance requires, then that could be done relatively quickly,” the official said.