Efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal have again hit a snag as US officials accuse Tehran’s latest response of signaling it is not ready to return to a deal in the immediate future as it does not failed to cooperate in an investigation of traces of undeclared nuclear material. .
The United States and Iran exchanged responses via the European Union to a proposal presented by the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell. Iran submitted its initial response in mid-August; the United States responded about a week later.
Last Thursday, Iran sent its final response, which a State Department spokesperson said was “not constructive.”
On Monday, Borrell said he was “less confident” about the prospects for the nuclear deal, from which the United States withdrew in 2018 under the Trump administration. Iran has increasingly violated its commitments to the accord and expanded its nuclear program following the US withdrawal.
“The last interaction is not convergent, it’s divergent,” Borrell said, calling it “very disturbing.”
“If the process does not converge, the whole process is in danger,” he said.
According to a senior US administration official, Iran in its latest response reopened the issue of the UN nuclear watchdog’s investigation into undeclared traces of uranium found at Iranian sites. Iranian officials have repeatedly said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation should be closed before reneging on the deal. However, a senior US administration official suggested last month that Iran had accepted the EU proposal – described by Borrell as the “final text” – without making demands about the investigation.
Rafael Grossi, the head of the IAEA, is “increasingly concerned” that “there has been no progress” towards resolving the matter, according to a report restricted to member states, which said that ” Iran has not engaged with the agency on outstanding issues.” warranty issues during the reference period.
Grossi said that unless “Iran provides technically credible explanations for the presence of the uranium particles”, the IAEA will not be “able to provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful. “, according to the report.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said last month that “Iran must respond to questions from the IAEA,” adding that “our position will not change.”
In June, the IAEA Board of Governors censured Iran and demanded an explanation of why uranium particles were found at three undeclared sites in 2019. Iran rejected the motion to the IAEA as being “politicized” and responded by removing surveillance cameras at key sites in response – depriving negotiators of up-to-date information on the country’s uranium enrichment program.
On Wednesday, Deputy State Department Spokesman Vedant Patel in the United States continued negotiations to try to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, but reiterated that “Iran’s response has not not put in a position to conclude the agreement”.
“This is something we will continue to pursue, as we continue to believe and affirm that a mutual return to JCPOA compliance continues to be not only in the national security interests of this country, this is an important step to contain Iran’s nuclear program,” Patel said at a press briefing, using an acronym for the official name of the 2015 agreement: the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. .
A spokesman for the National Security Council said negotiations would continue.
“The president has consistently made it clear that his priority is to prevent Iran from ever acquiring nuclear weapons. That hasn’t changed. Iran’s response has not put us in a position to achieve that result, because we will not reach a deal until Iran meets the conditions we have set out. We are not there yet. This is a negotiation, with regular back and forth — and we demonstrate that President Biden will only make a deal that he deems to be in the national security interest of the United States,” said Watson.