US officials believe Iran may be willing to discuss a broad road map to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, according to a report Wednesday.
US President Joe Biden has placed resumption of the nuclear deal high on his list of foreign policy priorities, but so far all of his proposals have been rejected. Most recently, the US floated a step-by-step approach back to compliance, which Tehran has turned down.
An unnamed US official told the Reuters news agency: “What we had heard was that they were interested first in a series of initial steps, and so we were exchanging ideas on a series of initial steps.”
“It sounds from what we are hearing publicly now, and through other means, that they may be … not interested in [discussing] initial steps but in a road map for return to full compliance,” the US official said.
“If that’s what Iran wants to talk about, we are happy to talk about it,” he added.
However, it is unclear whether Iran is indeed willing to craft a road map back to the deal, the report said.
Last week, Iran’s supreme leader reiterated the Islamic Republic’s “definite policy” that Washington must lift all sanctions before Tehran returns to its commitments under deal.
The US and Iran have not communicated directly, instead relying on intermediaries such as Britain, France, China, or Russia.
Senior Biden administration officials were cited Tuesday by the Walla news site as saying that communicating through indirect channels — among other factors — has delayed progress and given rise to misunderstandings.
Iran’s upcoming presidential election in June poses additional challenges, as Iranian officials will begin campaigning come May. The unnamed officials told Walla that the US believes Iranian leadership is divided on how to advance on the nuclear deal issue, and that the internal disputes — exacerbated by the election — are stunting progress. The report said Washington has not been able to obtain a clear picture of what Tehran wants.
It was unclear whether or not Iran’s supreme leader prefers to wait until after the election to make progress with the deal.
One unnamed official was also cited as saying new ideas are being floated between the US and other nuclear deal signatories.
“This process will take longer because the discussions between the United States and Iran are not taking place directly,” he explained to Walla.
“We are making offers and they are making offers. It’s a slow process, but that’s OK. We’re not in a rush,” a Western official told Reuters.
On Monday, a Politico report said the Biden administration was planning to offer to lift some sanctions on Iran if the Islamic Republic stops work on advanced centrifuges and enriching uranium to 20 percent.
A person familiar with the matter was quoted by the news site as saying the offer was, “more than anything, about trying to get the conversation started.”
But Iran rejected the offer bluntly, with the state-run Press TV saying on its website: “A senior Iranian official tells Press TV that Tehran will stop its 20-percent uranium enrichment only if the US lifts ALL its sanctions on Iran first.”
Additionally, a few months ago, the US proposed removing a small amount of frozen Iranian assets from the sanctions list if Iran stopped enriching uranium to 20% in violation of the nuclear accord. Iran, however, rejected the offer, saying it would only do so for a month if the US ended all sanctions on Tehran, Politico reported.
Recently, Biden officials clarified that it was not important to them who returns to compliance first, while Tehran has demanded the US lift sanctions before it comes back to the accord.
Returning to the deal would see the US ease its crippling economic sanctions on Tehran, and in return, see Iran curtail the development of its nuclear problem. Iran has gradually violated its commitments to the 2015 deal since former US president Donald Trump withdrew in 2018 and put punishing sanctions on Tehran.
Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons. Israel is adamant that the regime is working steadily toward the bomb.
Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have voiced opposition to the Biden administration’s desire to rejoin the 2015 deal, putting Jerusalem and Washington at odds on the issue. Some leading Israeli officials in recent months have warned of military action to halt Iran’s nuclear program.
Nonetheless, Israeli and US officials agreed to set up a joint team for sharing intelligence about Iran’s nuclear program during recent strategic talks.