Iran nuclear talks to restart as US insists it is ‘ready to use other options’ if diplomacy fails

Parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action will convene again in Vienna in nearly six months to discuss a return to the deal by both the US and Iran, but the disruption has created time for new obstacles begin.

On Friday, Iran announced more progress on its uranium enrichment, which would reduce the time it would take Tehran to develop a nuclear weapon, if it wanted to, an announcement that was clearly meant to strike a chord. leverage for Iran when they went to Vienna to negotiate.

The other parties to the deal – including Germany, Britain, Britain, France, China and Russia – are participating in the talks calling for talks to continue where they left off. European sources told CNN they expect Iran to treat the meeting as a “first round”. US officials have expressed similar concerns.

The recently elected tough government in Tehran will send a new team of negotiators to Vienna, who have stressed the need for easing US sanctions, not complying with the deal, while the US officials said they have absolutely no plans to introduce measures to encourage Iran. .

‘Time to choose is short’

And senior US officials have repeatedly warned that if advances in Iran’s nuclear program and enrichment capabilities continue unabated, they could benefit from the JCPOA debate – a developments forced the United States to pursue other options.

“We still hope that diplomacy can find a way,” Brett McGurk, the National Security Council’s coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, said at the Manama Dialogue organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. office. “But if it can’t find a way, we’re ready to use other options.”

“There is no question that we will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon,” McGurk said. “And when it comes to military force to change behavior, that’s a pretty fuzzy goal for military force. When it comes to military force to prevent a country from obtaining a nuclear weapon, it’s a nuclear weapon. is a very achievable goal.”

US special envoy for Iran Rob Malley said in a tweet after a November 18 meeting with Middle Eastern allies and European parties to the deal that Iran could choose one of two paths: “continue to climb escalation and nuclear crisis, or a return to the JCPOA, creates opportunities for economic and diplomatic relations in the region.”

“The time to choose is short,” Malley wrote.

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Sources familiar with the preparations for the talks say that the sides have been closely watching the visit of International Atomic Energy Agency Director Rafael Grossi to Tehran last week, taking it as a sign about Iran’s approach to the Vienna talks, those sources said. Grossi told the IAEA board later that the negotiations were “inconclusive.”

One of the remaining contentious issues is that Iran is denying IAEA inspectors overseeing access to the Karaj centrifuge production facility, which is reportedly back in operation.

“This is seriously affecting [IAEA’s] possibility of restoring continuity of knowledge at [Karaj] Workshop, which has been widely recognized as necessary regarding the return to the JCPOA,” Grossi said at Wednesday’s Board of Governors meeting.

The Arms Control Association notes that Iran’s refusal to allow the IAEA to install new cameras or confirm that production has not restarted could undermine efforts to revive the JCPOA and its rigorous verification regime. its strictures if they are unable to complete a full dossier on Iran ‘s nuclear program . The ACA said Tehran’s refusal to grant access to the Karaj also fueled speculation and concern about what Iran was doing.

‘No choice’

On Thursday, the US Mission to International Organizations in Vienna told the IAEA meeting that “if Iran’s non-cooperation is not immediately remedied… in particular, the restoration of interoperability tradition of knowledge in Karaj, the Council will have no choice but to reconvene in an extraordinary way before the end of the year to resolve the crisis.”

Meanwhile, on Friday, Iran announced that its stockpile of 60 percent enriched uranium had increased to 66 pounds (30 kilograms) and that its 20 percent enriched uranium had also increased. Both grades are closer to weapons-grade uranium enriched above 90%.

According to the Arms Control Association, enriching uranium to 20 percent “accounts for about 90 percent of the work required to enrich to weapons-grade.”

According to the ACA, as Iran’s stockpile grows, the breakout time or time required to produce enough weapons-grade enriched uranium for a bomb will decrease. The ACA estimates that Iran’s current break time could be around a month, down from 12 months when the JCPOA was fully implemented.

Enrichment is limited under the JCPOA, which the US unilaterally left in May 2018 under former President Donald Trump. Iran restarted its enrichment last year to pressure the US to ease sanctions.

‘A very uncertain proposition’

State Department spokesman Ned Price reflected the uncertainty surrounding talks that resumed on November 22, calling the two sides’ return to JCPOA compliance “a highly uncertain proposition.”

The next day, Price told reporters in Washington that, “we hope that the new government in Iran will appear in Vienna and appear in Vienna, ready to negotiate in good faith to build on the progress has been made in the previous six years. round of negotiations.”

However, he added that the US has been “very clear that we are not prepared to take unilateral steps just for the sake of lubricating the wheels” to get the talks going again. Former President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the agreement in 2018.

Sources familiar with the preparations for the talks have told CNN that the US and its allies are not the moment when they will begin to introduce confidence-building measures for Iran, but one Officials said it was possible that the US and its allies could use them overland. As a result, Iran’s preferences will not be discussed at this week’s meetings in Vienna, where the US and its allies will focus on simply taking the temperature and finding a way forward from where they have been. left a few months ago, American and European sources explained.

‘Plan B’

Everyone involved in the negotiation was paying attention to the ticking of the clock. Sources told CNN that there is still time to reach an agreement, but it will likely run out by the end of next year. Right now, they say, there’s no hard and fast “Plan B” yet.

Critics of the deal say the Biden administration has sacrificed leverage by easing pressure on Iran while it builds up its nuclear program.

Mark Dubowitz, Executive Director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said: “The Biden administration’s Iran policy is failing, and without significant correction it will lead to Iran’s nuclear weapons. or lead to a war to stop that development.” Dubowitz argued that the administration’s approach would allow Iran to rebuild toward a “deadly state” with paths to nuclear weapons and solid nuclear infrastructure.

“Israel will have no choice but to use military force to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons before Tehran reaches a lethal state,” Dubowitz said.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has made it clear that Israel will be ready to act if necessary. Speaking to delegates at a security conference near Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Bennett said that “if there is a return to the JCPOA, it is clear that Israel is not a party to the agreement and has no obligations to it. ”

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Bennett complained that after the nuclear deal was signed in 2015, “The State of Israel simply went to sleep. We were busy with other things. We will learn from this mistake. will maintain its freedom of action,” he said.

Western officials have tried to argue with the Israelis that attacks on Israel’s nuclear program are not very helpful when the overall goal is to provide a comprehensive solution, and especially when the Iranians speed up reconstruction after attacks, sources familiar with the matter said. Iran talks told CNN.

Western officials have also raised the risk of Iran responding with extreme action, but sources close to the talks say Israeli officials still seem to think it remains an effective tool to demonstrate their abilities.

When asked about those warnings, Price said that, “at the end of the day, the United States and Israel, we share a common goal here, and that is to see that Iran can verifiably and permanently prevent the possession of nuclear weapons, and we continue to believe that coordinated diplomacy with our allies and partners – and of course, Israel – is the best path to that goal. “

“We have also been very clear that this is not a process that can go on indefinitely and that if the Iranians through their actions or through their actions demonstrate or show that they lack faith well, that they lack a clear purpose, we” I’ll have to turn to other means,” Price said Tuesday. “We have different means that we’re discussing with our allies and His partner.”

Messy diplomacy

In recent weeks, American officials have conducted a series of diplomacy with regional powers and other parties to the deal, aiming to build a united front.

President Joe Biden met his European counterparts to discuss Iran during the G7 meetings in June in the UK. In recent weeks, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken has also been talking to European allies, as well as China and Russia, about Iran. And Malley recently met with Gulf countries, Israeli officials and European partners in the JCPOA.

“I think the Iranians believe they have some options looking east with Russia and China in which they can avoid the pressure of sanctions,” McGurk said on Sunday. “And that’s just wrong. And so I think we’re going towards the negotiations at the end of November as a pretty united front with the P5+1.”

CNN’s Andrew Carey in Israel and CNN’s Mostafa Salem in Abu Dhabi contributed to this report.


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