U.S. Iran envoy Robert Malley says the Biden administration is preparing for a "world where Iran doesn't have constraints on its nuclear program," comments that show how little progress has been made in negotiations with Tehran aimed at securing a return to the 2015 nuclear accord.
Malley, during a televised talk on Wednesday with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the United States has been talking to its allies about options for dealing with a fully operational and unrestricted Iranian nuclear program.
"We have to prepare for a world—which we're doing now in consultation with our partners from the region—about a world where Iran doesn't have constraints on its nuclear program and we have to consider options for dealing with that, which is what we're doing even as we hope that we can get back to the deal. Iran is giving us its answer by what it's doing and not doing every day," Malley said.
Iran flagrantly violates restrictions on its nuclear program that were applied under the 2015 accord. This includes uranium enrichment to levels needed to fuel a bomb and the resumption of nuclear work that international inspectors say can only be part of an atomic weapons program. Tehran has also blocked nuclear inspectors from entering its most contested nuclear sites.
Iran's election of a hardline new president and foreign policy team has complicated efforts to reach a deal, Malley said, even as the Biden administration has made clear to Tehran: "We are prepared to remove all of the sanctions that were imposed by the Trump administration."
After 10 months and 6 rounds of indirect talks, Malley said that "every day that goes by, we're getting a piece of Iran's answer. This is a team that may not in fact be prepared" to rejoin the deal and return to compliance.
Malley said the United States is pressing Iran to return to talks, but that it is unclear if diplomats can salvage the past year of talks and any progress made with the previous Iranian negotiating team.
Iran, meanwhile, continues to foster terrorism in the region and has amplified its hardline, anti-U.S. stance. Iranian leaders also say they will not negotiate around the country's contested missile program, which is developing intercontinental weapons capable of carrying a nuclear payload.
Published under: Iran