Oct 25, 2021 - World

U.S. and allies plan next moves if Iran won't resume nuclear talks

Rob Malley. Photo: Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency/Getty

The Biden administration is discussing potential next steps with partners in the Middle East and Europe if Iran doesn't return to negotiations in Vienna, U.S. Iran envoy Rob Malley told reporters in a conference call on Monday.

Why it matters: Talks have been frozen since Iran's new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected in June, and the Iranians continue to say they need more time to prepare to reenter the negotiations. In the meantime, Iran’s nuclear program is making significant advances, with uranium enrichment levels moving ever closer to the 90% grade needed to produce a nuclear weapon.

Driving the news: Malley visited held talks on Iran last week during visits to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, then traveled to Paris to meet senior diplomats from France, Germany and the U.K.

  • “All of our interlocutors shared growing concern about Iran’s nuclear advancement. This is a regional and global concern and there was shared impatience. At the same time there is a strong preference for diplomacy and efforts to revive the nuclear deal in order to engage Iran economically right afterwards," Malley said.

The state of play: Malley said the diplomatic effort is “at a critical phase” and that the Iranians' explanations for not returning to the Vienna talks “are wearing very thin."

  • “We have given a lot of thought to what we will do if Iran doesn’t go back to the table. We will have various ways to address that and this is what we talked about with our partners," Malley said.
  • He declined to provide any details except to say: "We will use other tools to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon."
  • Malley said he was also "increasingly concerned" that Iran would elect to return to the negotiating table with unrealistic demands.

What’s next: Malley said that in the coming days and weeks there will be more intense diplomacy over the Iranian issue.

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