The United States and Israel have warned that they are exploring a “plan B” to deal with Iran if Tehran does not return in good faith to negotiations to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal.
With talks to reactivate the deal stalled, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that the window is closing for the Islamic Republic to return to the deal.
“Time is running out,” he told a joint press conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. “We are prepared to turn to other options if Iran does not change course, and these consultations with our allies and partners are part of that.”
“We will examine all options to meet the challenge posed by Iran,” Blinken said. “And we continue to believe that diplomacy is the most effective way to do it. But, it takes two to engage in diplomacy, and we haven’t seen Iran’s willingness to do that at this point. “
He did not elaborate, but Lapid, without being contradicted, said of Blinken’s comments: “If a terrorist regime is going to acquire a nuclear weapon, we must act. We must make it clear that the civilized world will not allow it. “
Earlier on Wednesday, US special envoy Robert Malley said Iran is sending daily signals that it may already have rejected a return to the talks, requiring US and European powers to consider all other options.
The US warnings came as EU chief negotiator Enrique Mora travels to Iran with a message that the talks are in deep crisis, in the latest attempt to convince Tehran to return to talks. A European diplomat said: “It is now up to Iran to unambiguously declare its intention and explain its choice to the international community and to its own citizens.”
Malley will travel to the Middle East in the next few days to see how the United States and its allies will respond if he decides it is necessary to break off talks designed to reestablish the 2015 agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear program.
Iran has so far said it will return “soon” to the Vienna talks that ended in June when Hassan Rouhani resigned the presidency, replaced in an election by hardliner Ebrahim Raisi.
The new foreign minister, Hossein Amir-abdollahian, refused to set a new date for the resumption of the talks, saying Iran needed time to review progress and appoint a new team of negotiators.
US officials believe they cannot wait indefinitely as Iran is developing irreversible nuclear knowledge, bringing it closer to the ability to build a nuclear weapon. It has built up a reserve of highly enriched uranium at 60%, experimented with fuel based on 20% uranium metal, restricted UN nuclear inspections, developed 1,500 advanced centrifuges capable of producing uranium, and declared that it will use advanced centrifuges at its site. Fordow.
Israel, which has shown no reluctance to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities in the past, has been pushing for the United States to acknowledge that the new Tehran regime is ideologically opposed to the nuclear deal known as JCPOA.
Russia is also urging Iran to return to the talks quickly and not try to undo the progress made in the first round of talks.
Malley said: “Iran knows that the United States is prepared to return to the joint comprehensive plan of action and quickly lift all sanctions inconsistent with the JCPOA, if Iran is willing to comply again.”
He added that the United States was prepared to lift more sanctions if separate follow-up talks could agree on Iranian regional behavior and update restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program that went beyond the terms of the 2015 deal.
He said the two sides had made progress in the talks in Vienna, but it was now an open question whether the Raisi administration had rejected the deal.
Mora will demand that the UN’s nuclear weapons watchdog, the IAEA, be invited to Iran in a few days for pre-scheduled talks to discuss how it will continue to monitor nuclear sites. Restrictions on the IAEA’s work are an unprecedented concern, Mora’s team said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism