subtle shift in official U.S. statements suggests Washington believes reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is better than the alternatives despite the advances in Iran’s nuclear program, diplomatic and other sources said.
For months, the Biden administration argued there would soon come a point where the non-proliferation benefits of a revived deal – its ability to limit Iran’s headway toward a nuclear bomb – would be outweighed by the progress of Iran’s atomic program.
“You can’t revive a dead corpse,” Rob Malley, the lead U.S. negotiator, said on Oct. 25.
Under the agreement called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and struck by Iran and six major powers, Tehran limited its nuclear program to make it harder for it to get a bomb in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
Tehran has long said its program is for peaceful purposes.
Then-U.S. President Donald Trump reneged on the accord in 2018 and reimposed harsh U.S. sanctions, prompting Iran to begin violating the nuclear limits a year later. U.S. President Joe Biden has tried to revive the pact through indirect talks in Vienna, so far without success.
On Feb. 28, two weeks before the talks unraveled, State Department spokesman Ned Price said: “We will need to have additional clarity in the coming days given that we are at this decisive … moment, knowing that Tehran’s nuclear advancements will soon render the non-proliferation benefits that the JCPOA conveyed essentially meaningless.”
Others have used various analogies to describe the urgency, saying the runway was limited, the clock ticking and the window closing.
However, Price and other U.S. officials have since put less emphasis on time running out and more on their only reviving the deal if it were in the U.S. national security interest.
“We’re going to test the proposition of a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA for as long as doing so remains in our interests,” Price said on April 26.
“As long as the non-proliferation benefits that a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA brings is better than what we have now, that will likely be an outcome that’s in our interest.”