Jan 19, 2021 - World

U.S. is "a long way" from return to Iran nuclear deal, Blinken says

Blinken during the hearing. Photo: Graeme Jennings-Pool/Getty Images

Secretary of State designate Tony Blinken said in his confirmation hearing on Tuesday that the Biden administration is "a long way" from executing its plan to return to the Iran nuclear deal, and he plans to consult with Israel and the Gulf states before doing so.

Why it matters: America's partners in the Middle East have been publicly raising their concerns about a possible return to the 2015 agreement and calling on the Biden administration to consult with them first.

The state of play: President-elect Biden's plan is to return to the deal, by lifting sanctions, if Iran returns to compliance with the restrictions on its nuclear program. In the next stage, Biden wants to negotiate a broader and longer-lasting agreement.

  • Blinken said those negotiations would include Iran’s missile program and regional activity.

What they're saying: Blinken said Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear deal left Iran closer to obtaining a nuclear weapon because Tehran began to breach its terms. “Iran’s breakout time, which was a year under the nuclear deal, is only three to four months today," Blinken said in the hearing.

  • Yes, but: While Blinken stressed that the U.S. would live up to its commitments if Iran did, he said the new administration wouldn't rush back into the deal before assessing whether Iran was prepared to return to full compliance.

Worth noting: Blinken said he “didn’t shed tears” about the killing of Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani by the U.S. one year ago, but added that he believes it made America less safe.

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