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Washington (AFP) – The US Iran press man warned on Wednesday it was more likely than not that talks would fail to revive a nuclear deal, as he vowed not to let up the pressure if Tehran clung to his demands .
Rob Malley, who conducted more than a year of indirect talks with Iran in Vienna, nevertheless told lawmakers that President Joe Biden’s administration still supports the 2015 nuclear deal and is ready to lift sanctions if she got a deal.
“As of today, the odds of a successful negotiation are less than the odds of failure and it’s because of the excessive Iranian demands that we will not succumb to,” Malley told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
He said the United States would reject “requests that go beyond the scope of the JCPOA,” using the official name of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“We are fully prepared to live with that reality and confront it if that is Iran’s choice,” Malley said.
He was likely referring to clerical state demands to remove a terrorism blacklist of elite Revolutionary Guards, a step rejected by Biden and bitterly opposed by many in Congress.
But Malley made it clear that Biden does not support military action — an option heavily considered by Israel, which is suspected of a dark assassination campaign against Iranian nuclear scientists.
“All options are on the table,” Malley said, adding that military action would only “delay” Iran’s nuclear program.
Referring to the history of the United States’ war in the Middle East, Malley said, “We know it costs.”
“But let’s leave it at that – the only solution here is diplomatic.”
More economic pressure
Malley, however, warned of greater economic pressure if the talks failed – and said the United States would have the backing of Europeans, unlike former President Donald Trump.
The Treasury Department said Wednesday it was imposing sanctions on a network backed by the Revolutionary Guards and Russian officials that shipped hundreds of millions of dollars worth of oil in defiance of unilateral US sanctions.
The JCPOA – negotiated under President Barack Obama with the blessing of European powers, Russia and China – pledged economic aid to Iran, which inspectors said had complied with tough restrictions on agreement on its nuclear program.
Trump stepped down in 2018 and imposed sweeping unilateral sanctions, including on Iranian oil, promising to bring Tehran to its knees.
Malley said Trump’s approach has clearly failed, with Iran stepping up nuclear work since the US withdrawal.
Senators, including some from Biden’s Democratic Party, expressed exasperation, noting that Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned in January that there were only “weeks” before Iran advanced to the point that the JCPOA was no longer beneficial.
“We continue to wait and hope. But hope is not a national security strategy,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, Democratic chairman of the committee.
Menendez said Iran has convinced the world “that the United States wants the JCPOA more than the Iranian regime.”
Malley responded that there remained technical assessments “that the nonproliferation benefits of the agreement are worth the sanctions relief we would provide.”
He also strongly criticized Iran’s crackdown on recent protests against austerity measures.
“I don’t think it’s a strong regime that relishes the ability to circumvent sanctions,” Malley said.
“It’s a regime under duress and it’s because of its own mismanagement and our sanctions.”
© 2022 AFP