World, Middle East

US secretary of state warns of Iran's waning interest in nuclear talks

Antony Blinken will not say what action US might take if Iran does not return to negotiations

Andrew John Roesgen   | 04.12.2021
US secretary of state warns of Iran's waning interest in nuclear talks US Secretary of State Antony Blinken

CHICAGO, United States

Iran does not seem serious about returning to the parameters of the 2015 nuclear deal that set limits on Iran's nuclear ambitions, as talks between the two nations broke off this week in Vienna, said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday.  

Speaking at the Reuters Next conference, Blinken said that the path to diplomacy with Iran is "getting shorter and shorter," as the US has tried to return to Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). 

That agreement curbed Iran's nuclear capabilities and gave US inspectors the ability to keep watch on them, in exchange for the US lifting long-time sanctions on the country, for its alleged links to terrorism.

The deal was struck under the Obama administration, but the Trump administration pulled out of the deal in 2018. Then-President Donald Trump said the deal was too lenient on Tehran, and US economic sanctions were re-imposed. In response, Iran began breaching limits the deal had imposed on nuclear enrichment, among other restrictions. 

The Biden administration has wanted to return to the deal, but talks this week stalled, under demands by a new Iranian leadership. 

Blinken said Friday the decision by Trump to pull out of the deal was a "disastrous mistake. Because what's happened is that Iran has used that as an excuse, despite maximum pressure applied against Iran, to rebuild the nuclear program that had been put in a box." 

Blinken said that in the last month, Iran has moved ahead with enriching its nuclear program "in ways that are profoundly dangerous." 

He lamented that prior to the Iranian elections that saw a more hardline leadership come into power, the US and Iran had engaged in "real progress with both countries making good on their commitments." 

When asked what options the US has to contain Iran's nuclear program, Blinken said that the US in consultation with other partners in the region, including Israel, China and Russia.  

"Even Russia and China are clearly frustrated with what Iran is doing or not doing in these talks. So Iran has very important decisions to make in the days ahead."

Blinken would not talk about what the US might do if Iran does not get back into compliance but said America will not simply let Iran "tread water" on the talks and let them drag on indefinitely. 

"We're either going to get back into compliance with the agreement, or we're going to have to look at dealing with this problem in other ways."

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