US ready to ‘do everything that it can’ to prevent a nuclear Iran if talks fail

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

The United States is prepared to “do everything that it can to make sure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon” if indirect talks in Vienna on a return to the JCPOA fail to bare fruit, a senior State Department official tells reporters in a background briefing.

“We’re prepared for that scenario as well, but the scenario that we prefer, that’s in our interest and that is in Iran’s interest is to come back into mutual compliance and that’s what we’re… in Vienna to try and achieve,” the official says.

The official says that the US will only ease Trump-era sanctions against Iran that it believes are in violation with the JCPOA, while suggesting that additional sanctions that aren’t in violation with the agreement could remain in place and be used as leverage for subsequent negotiations to reach a “longer and stronger deal” that addresses Tehran’s ballistic missiles program and its “aggressive” activity in the region.

The official says US President Biden views a return to the JCPOA as “just a first step” that will hopefully be used as a platform for a broader deal that would be negotiated immediately after the sides return to compliance with the JCPOA.

However, the official clarifies that the US is “not waiting for a return to the JCPOA to try and help out our allies and partners in the region,” referring to the concerns of Iran’s neighbors regarding its regional hegemony.

Asked if a deal to return to the JCPOA could be reached before Iran’s parliamentary elections in June, the official was non-committal. “Is it possible that we’ll see a mutual return to compliance in the next few weeks, or an understanding of a mutual compliance? It’s possible yes. Is it likely? Only time will tell because as I said, this is ultimately a matter of a political decision that needs to be made in Iran.”

For the vast majority of the briefing, the official relied on previously stated American talking points.

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