US Less Optimistic About Reaching Iran Nuclear Deal

US optimism that a deal to restore a 2015 agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear development has ebbed has waned, with the US State Department warning Tuesday that the US is headed for a “Plan B” if Tehran lingers.

Just a week ago Washington officials hoped an agreement aimed at halting Iran’s move towards nuclear weapons capability would be reached after nearly a year of negotiations.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks at a news conference in Washington, USA March 10, 2022. (Photo: via Reuters)

US State Department spokesman Ned Price speaks at a news conference in Washington, USA March 10, 2022. (Photo: via Reuters)

“We’re close to reaching a possible agreement, but we’re not there yet,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on March 16. “We really think that the remaining issues can be addressed.”

US officials said they thought Tehran would reach a deal after the celebration of Nowruz, the Persian new year, on Sunday.

However, that optimistic tone suddenly changed the next day.

“I want to make it clear that a deal is neither imminent nor certain,” Price said Monday (21/3).

And on Tuesday, refusing to say talks had reached a stalemate, Price said the United States had contingency plans in case a deal could not be reached and Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons plans were not discontinued.

“The onus is on Tehran’s side to make decisions that may be considered difficult,” Price told reporters.

“In fact, we are preparing scenarios with and without a return to full implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” he said.

President Donald Trump’s administration unilaterally canceled the six-party JCPOA in 2018, accusing Tehran of violating its terms and calling it a weak deal.

A satellite photo from Maxar Technologies shows trucks, and other equipment surrounding a charred launch pad at Iran's Imam Khomeini Space Port, February 27, 2022. (Photo: via AP)

A satellite photo from Maxar Technologies shows trucks, and other equipment surrounding a charred launch pad at Iran’s Imam Khomeini Space Port, February 27, 2022. (Photo: via AP)

Experts say Iran has largely complied with the terms, but months after the US withdrawal, the Islamic republic has begun to ramp up its nuclear program with activities that will increase its capability to build nuclear weapons.

Last April, three months after taking office, President Joe Biden began fresh talks to revive the 2015 agreement, promising an easing of sanctions in exchange for restoring control of the JCPOA.

But talks continue in the knowledge that Tehran has moved closer to achieving nuclear weapons, which would make the JCPOA debatable. [uh/ab]