The White House criticizes Trump’s withdrawal from Iran, as the prospects for rescuing the nuclear deal are weak

As a result, “Iran’s nuclear program was no longer in a box, no longer had the most robust inspection regime ever negotiated, no longer had the strict restrictions on nuclear activity,” Psaki said during a press briefing.

Psaki’s comments come as critics of the original nuclear deal, which was signed in 2015 but abandoned by Trump in 2018, have stepped up their efforts to convince Biden to stop trying to revive the deal. Some opponents of the agreement urge Biden to do so prepare to launch military attacks on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Many criticize his administration for not enforcing existing sanctions against the Tehran regime.

The Iran deal lifted many US and international sanctions against Tehran in exchange for severe restrictions on the country’s nuclear program. After Trump left the deal, saying it was not strong or broad enough, he reintroduced US sanctions and put on new ones in hopes of forcing Iran back to the table for what Trump promised would be a better deal. Iran first complied with the terms of the agreement when European countries, furious with Trump, sought ways to help its economy, but when that help failed, Iran began to break parts of the agreement.

Biden agreed and promised to revive the nuclear deal, but since then Iran has had a change in its government. It now has a new, tougher leadership than the one that signed the nuclear deal, and it has pushed forward with nuclear progress. While Iran, according to the agreement, should spend more than a year building a bomb, that time frame is now down to about a month. (Iran nevertheless insists that its nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes, not a bomb.)

International negotiations in Vienna to return to Iran’s nuclear deal have dragged on, with a five-month break thanks to Iran’s change of leadershipsince last spring. Discussions, which have European officials mediating between Iranian delegates and Biden envoys, have not yet bridged any major differences, such as the order of steps back towards an agreement, analysts say.

Tehran wants the United States to lift the sanctions first, giving it access to billions of dollars in frozen funds. Washington is reluctant to lift any sanctions until Iran returns the progress it has made with its nuclear program. Biden also wants to start negotiations on a more robust agreement in the future.

So far, “the discussions are making progress, but it is unacceptably slow in the US view,” said Ali Vaez, a well-connected top analyst in Iran at the International Crisis Group. He added that at this rate, it could take six months before the agreement is revived, but that Iran’s nuclear progress in the meantime could make the terms of the agreement irrelevant.

Vaez predicted that if there is no significant progress by the end of January, the United States would shift to a more coercive stance. It could include tightening or adding more sanctions, as well as heightened discussions with US partners in the Middle East on ways to contain Iran.

Critics of the Iran deal in particular have criticized the Biden administration for not doing more to stop it China from buying Iranian oil; China is a party to Iran’s nuclear deal, but it does not always lock in with the United States on the issue.

If there is enough frustration over the Iranian stance, European officials may also decide to allow the withdrawal of UN sanctions, Vaez said. This process is designed to circumvent a potential Russian or Chinese veto, and while its economic impact on Iran may not be enough to change the clergy’s view of its path given how bad Iran’s economy already is, it could be a psychological blow to the regime. .

It would also technically mean the end of Iran’s nuclear deal, officially called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA. That said, although the United States and its partners are pursuing more pressure on Iran, they are likely to still push for ongoing diplomatic discussions at the same time, Vaez said.

U.S. officials have not issued a formal deadline, but they have warned Iran for several months that they will not tolerate what they consider its stubbornness forever. In December, Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized Trump for leaving the nuclear deal and not keeping his promise to come up with a better one, calling Trump’s decision “one of the worst decisions made in US foreign policy in the last decade.”

But Blinken also warned Tehran that the time to restore the deal would be “very, very, very short.” “What will not hold out is that Iran is playing for time at the negotiating table by not engaging in good faith and with speed, while at the same time continuing to build its program,” Blinken said. “It’s not a viable proposal.”

Psaki touched on Blinken’s point, while also highlighting US efforts under Biden to rebuild relations with Europe and other countries damaged by Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal.

“We are eager to see the diplomatic path move forward,” she added.

Some arms control experts agree that the original sin that led to the tense situation today was Trump’s withdrawal from an agreement that international inspectors said Iran was sticking to. But there is also a sense that Biden was moving too slowly last year to reach out to Iran and its then more moderate regime to kick-start negotiations to restore the nuclear deal.

In any case, it’s still worth talking about, said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.

“Although President Biden and his team should have moved earlier and faster last year to re – enter into dialogue with Iran on the necessary steps to restore mutual compliance with the JCPOA, it is still possible – and necessary – for Iranian and US negotiators to reach a win-win event that diverts a major nuclear crisis, ”Kimball said.

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