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Blinken on Iran: If Tehran returns to compliance with 2015 deal, we’ll do the same

Blinken also speaks about Iran to Channel 12, making clear the US would return to the old deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Asked about Iranian President Rouhani’s comments last Thursday that Iran is close to reaching an agreement on the JCPOA — “We’ve taken a big step and an agreement in principle has been achieved” — Blinken says: “That would be news to us.”

In the indirect talks, he says: “We’ve clarified increasingly what each side would need to do to come back into compliance with the JCPOA, but it remains an unanswered question whether Iran is actually prepared to do what it needs to do to come back into compliance. The jury is still out on that.”

Reminded that Netanyahu in their joint presser said he hopes the US does not return to the old JCPOA, Blinken is asked whether the US indeed plans to return to the same terms as the JCPOA or to add additional safeguards. He says “it’s no secret” that the US and Israel “have had differences” over how to ensure their “absolutely united” goal to ensure that Iran “can never acquire a nuclear weapon.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on May 25, 2021 (Haim Zach / GPO)

He then defends the original deal: “From our perspective, the JCPOA did exactly what it set out to accomplish, which was to cut off all the pathways that Iran had to producing fissile material for a nuclear weapon on short order. Our experts verified that it was working. International experts verified that it was working.

“It had the most intrusive inspections regime of any arms control agreement ever achieved. And the result was that when the agreement was in force, Iran, had it decided to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon, would have required at least a year to do so, which would have been plenty of time to see it, and if necessary to do something about it.

“But here’s what’s happened since. Now that we’re out of the deal, Iran has started to ignore the constraints that the deal imposed. And it is closer and closer and closer to being able to produce fissile material for a nuclear weapon on very short order. And so, far from getting less dangerous without the deal, it’s gotten more dangerous,” he says.

“If Iran returns to compliance with the deal, we would do the same. We would also seek to make it, as we say, longer and stronger. And we’d also work hard to engage the other issues where Iran is a very dangerous and problematic actor for us and for Israel — destabilizing activities in the region, proliferation of weapons, support for terrorist groups, etcetera.”

Asked about the “sunset clauses,” he says “this is important” but stresses: “The two most important timelines — the level at which Iran can enrich, 3.67%; the limits on the stockpile of enriched uranium, 300kg — those don’t expire until 2030. So if Iran were to come back into compliance, we would also have some time to seek to extend those deadlines and others.

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