Blinken: US wants to ‘lengthen and strengthen’ the Iran nuclear deal

The United States is prepared to return to the Iran nuclear deal if Tehran shows “strict compliance” with it, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says. It’s a new sign of Washington’s ambition to revive the deal rejected by former president Donald Trump even as Tehran appears to be backing further away from it.

Speaking to the UN-backed Conference on Disarmament, Blinken lays out a US wish list about many issues including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and space-borne threats in the future. He expresses concerns about a Russian anti-satellite weapons test last year and China’s “provocative and dangerous weapons development programs,” in addition to the message about Iran.

Blinken’s comments by video signaled another step by the Biden administration to re-engage with many international institutions and agreements that were shunned, rejected or largely ignored by Trump. It is the first time in years a top US diplomat has spoken to the disarmament body, which has become mainly a venue for countries to voice concerns about disarmament because it has failed to usher in any accords.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to staff at the US State Department during the first visit of US President Joe Biden (L) in Washington, DC, February 4, 2021. (SAUL LOEB / AFP)

The comments on Iran are perhaps Blinken’s most timely message, coming in the wake of new signs over the weekend that Tehran is moving away from — not toward — compromise with Western governments over the nuclear deal.

Blinken says the United States is prepared to return to the accord “if Iran comes back into strict compliance” with it.

Blinken emphasizes that the United States remains committed to making sure that Iran “never acquires a nuclear weapon,” adding: “Diplomacy is the best path to achieve that goal.”

Working with allies and partners, he says the US will aim to “lengthen and strengthen” the Iran nuclear deal, which was struck in 2015 between Iran and Germany, France, Britain, Russia, China and the US. Trump pulled the US out three years later.

Iran has slowly walked away from all the nuclear deal’s limitations on its stockpile of uranium and has begun enriching up 20%, a technical step away from weapons-grade levels.

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