Iran’s nuclear talks restart as US stresses it is “ready to use other options”

The United States and its allies restart Iran’s nuclear talks on Monday, unsure how Tehran’s new government will approach the talks, not optimistic about the prospects ahead and stressing that if diplomacy fails, the United States is “ready to use other options.”

The United States and its allies are restarting Iran nuclear talks Monday uncertain how Tehran’s new government will approach the negotiations, not optimistic about the prospects ahead and stressing that if diplomacy fails, the United States is “ready to use other options.”

The parties to the joint comprehensive action plan will meet again in Vienna after almost six months to discuss a reciprocal return to the agreement between both the United States and Iran, but the break has allowed time for new obstacles to take root.

On Friday, Iran announced even more progress in its uranium enrichment, reducing the time Tehran needs to develop a nuclear weapon, if it so chooses, a statement that clearly aims to give Iran leverage when it arrives in Vienna for negotiations.

Other parties to the agreement – including Germany, the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom, France, China and Russia – are participating in the negotiations and call for the negotiations to continue where they left off. European sources tell CNN that they expect the Iranians to treat the meeting as “round one.” U.S. officials have expressed similar concerns.

The newly elected tough government in Tehran will send a new set of negotiators to Vienna, which has stressed the need for complete easing of US sanctions, not compliance with the agreement, while US officials have said they have absolutely no plans to offer Iran incentives to speak. .

‘Time to choose is short’

And senior U.S. officials have repeatedly warned that if progress in Iran’s nuclear program and enrichment capability continues unabated, they could challenge the benefits of the JCPOA – a development that will force the United States to pursue other options.

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

“There’s no doubt we will not allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon, period,” McGurk said. “And when it comes to military power for behavior change, it’s a pretty vague measure of a military force. When it comes to military power to prevent a country from getting a nuclear weapon, it’s a very achievable goal.”

The US special envoy to Iran, Rob Malley, said in a tweet after a meeting on November 18 with Middle East allies and European parties in the agreement that Iran could choose one of two paths: “continued nuclear escalation and crisis, or mutual return to the JCPOA, creating opportunities for regional economic and diplomatic ties. “

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

Sources familiar with the preparations for the talks say the parties closely monitored the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossis,’s visit to Tehran last week, and saw it as an indication of Iran’s approach to the negotiations in Vienna, these sources said. Grossi subsequently told the IAEA board that the negotiations were “incomplete.”

One of the remaining controversial issues is that Iran denies IAEA inspectors monitoring access to the Karaj centrifuge production facility, indicating that they have resumed operations.

“This is seriously affecting [IAEA’s] ability to restore continuity of knowledge [Karaj] workshop, which has been widely recognized as essential in relation to a return to JCPOA, ”Grossi told a board meeting on Wednesday.

The Arms Control Association noted that Iran’s refusal to allow the IAEA to install new cameras or confirm that production has not restarted could undermine attempts to revitalize the JCPOA and its strict verification regime if it is not possible to complete records of Iran’s nuclear program. . Tehran’s refusal to grant access to Karaj also raises speculation and concerns about what exactly Iran is doing, the ACA said.

‘No choice’

On Thursday, the US mission told international organizations in Vienna at the IAEA meeting that “if Iran’s lack of cooperation is not immediately remedied… especially the restoration of the continuity of knowledge in Karaj, the board will have no choice but to meet again to extraordinary meeting before the end of this year to deal with the crisis. “

Meanwhile, Iran announced on Friday that its stock of 60% enriched uranium has grown to 66 pounds (30 kg), and its amount of 20% enriched uranium had also increased. Both levels are much closer to weapons-grade uranium, which is enriched above 90%.

According to the Arms Control Association, uranium enrichment accounts for 20% “about 90 percent of the work required to enrich for weapon quality.”

As Iran’s stocks grow, the ACA says, its eruption time, or the time it would take to produce enough uranium enriched for weapon quality for one bomb, decreases. The ACA estimates that Iran’s current breakout time is likely to be around one month, down from 12 months when JCPOA was fully implemented.

Enrichment was limited under the JCPOA, which the United States left unilaterally in May 2018 under former President Donald Trump. Iran resumed enrichment last year to pressure the United States to ease sanctions.

‘A very uncertain proposal’

State Department spokesman Ned Price reflected the ambiguity surrounding the resumption of talks on Nov. 22, calling the reciprocal return to compliance with the JCPOA “a very uncertain proposal.”

The next day, Price told reporters in Washington that “it is our hope that the new government in Iran will show up in Vienna and show up in Vienna ready to negotiate in good faith to build on the progress made in the previous six rounds of negotiations. “

But he added that the United States has “been very clear that we are not prepared to take unilateral action solely in favor of lubricating the wheel” to get the negotiations back on track. Former President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the 2018 deal.

Sources familiar with the preparations for the talks have told CNN that the United States and its allies are not at a time when they will start offering Iran confidence-building measures, but an official said there is a possibility that the United States and its allies could hire them on their way. As a result, incentives for Iran will not be discussed at this week’s meetings in Vienna, where the US and allies will be focused on simply taking the temperature and seeking to move on from where they left off months ago, US and European sources explained.

‘Plan B’

Everyone involved in the conversations is aware of the ticking clock. The sources told CNN that there is still time to reach an agreement, but it would probably run out by the end of next year. For now, they said there is no hard and fast “Plan B” yet.

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

“The Biden administration’s Iran policy is failing, and without a significant price correction, that policy will either result in Iranian nuclear weapons or in a war to stop this development,” said Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Dubowitz argued that the administration’s approach would allow Iran to rebuild towards a “deadly final state” with roads to nuclear weapons and a robust nuclear infrastructure.

“Israel will have no choice but to use military force to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons before Tehran reaches this deadly final 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, Israel is obviously not a party to the agreement and is not bound by it.”

Bennett complained that after the nuclear deal was signed in 2015, the state of Israel simply went to sleep. We were preoccupied with other things. We will learn from this mistake. We want to preserve our agency, ”he said.

Western officials have tried to argue with the Israelis that attacks on Israel’s nuclear program are not very useful when the overall goal is to come up with a comprehensive solution, and especially when the Iranians have accelerated their ability to rebuild after attacks, sources familiar with The Iran talks have told CNN.

Western officials have also raised the danger that Iran will react with kinetic action, but sources familiar with the talks say Israeli officials still seem to believe it is still an effective tool to demonstrate their capabilities.

Asked about these warnings, Price said that “ultimately, the United States and Israel, we share a common goal here, and that is to make sure that Iran is verifiably and permanently prevented from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And we continue to believe, that diplomacy in coordination with our allies and partners – and that includes Israel, of course – is the best way to achieve this goal. “

“We have also been very clear that this is not a process that can go on indefinitely, and if the Iranians, through their actions or through their passivity, show or suggest that they lack the good faith that they lack that clarity in purpose, we “I will have to turn to other means,” Price said Tuesday. “We have a number of other ways we discuss them with our allies and partners.”

Diplomatic shower

In recent weeks, U.S. officials have carried out a barrage of diplomacy with regional powers and other parties to the agreement working to create a common front.

President Joe Biden met with European partners to discuss Iran during the June G7 summit in Britain. In recent weeks, Foreign Minister Antony Blinken has also conferred with European allies as well as China and Russia on Iran. And Malley recently met with the Gulf countries, Israeli officials and European partners in the JCPOA.

“I think the Iranians think they have an option to the east with Russia and China where they can circumvent the pressure of sanctions,” McGurk said Sunday. “And that’s just wrong. So I think we’ll approach the negotiations at the end of November as a fairly united front with P5 + 1.”

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