Biden envoy says US-Iran nuclear talks ‘tenuous, at best’ amid impasse

The prospects for reviving the 2015 nuclear deal that world powers struck with Iran are exceedingly dim, President Joe Biden’s chief envoy for the talks said Wednesday amid an ongoing diplomatic impasse.

“Of course, as I speak to you, we do not have a deal and prospects for reaching one are tenuous, at best,” Rob Malley told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “If Iran maintains demands that go beyond the scope of the JCPOA, we will continue to reject them, and there will be no deal.”

He was referring to the agreement by its formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which was signed by Iran, the US, China, Russia, France, the UK, Germany and the EU.

Indirect negotiations between the US and Iran, which have been facilitated by the deal’s other participants, have been ongoing for more than a year.

Former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the JCPOA in 2018 and went on to pursue what he and his administration called a “maximum pressure campaign” to bring Tehran back to the negotiating table to craft a more comprehensive agreement.

That never happened. Instead, Tehran retaliated against Trump’s reimposition of sweeping sanctions, and the addition of new economic penalties, by stepping back from its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA. Tehan has since exceeded thresholds on the enrichment of uranium, as well as the amount it is allowed to possess, under the pact.

The talks to return the US and Iran to full compliance with the agreement have stalled in recent months, reportedly because of Tehran’s demand that its Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) be removed from a US terrorist list on which it was placed by the Trump administration.

Trump took the action as part of his efforts to tighten the screws on Iran. It was not part of negotiations related to the JCPOA.

The State Department said May 4 that it is “now preparing equally for” scenarios in which the 2015 nuclear deal world powers struck with Iran is revived, as well as its possible dissolution, sentiments echoed by Malley.

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