U.S. and Iran "in the ballpark" of a nuclear deal, Biden adviser says
White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk says the U.S. and Iran "are in the ballpark of a possible deal" to return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, but he “doesn’t want to put odds on it."
Why it matters: That's the most optimistic statement from the Biden administration since the nuclear talks resumed in Vienna last December. McGurk, who was speaking at a Carnegie Endowment event, didn’t explain the reasoning behind his assessment.
State of play: Biden administration officials have set the end of January or beginning of February as an unofficial deadline for the talks, in large part because they believe Iran's nuclear advances will soon render the 2015 deal ineffective.
- Both U.S. and European officials have said in recent weeks that progress in Vienna has been modest and very slow.
- A senior U.S. official involved in the talks told Axios last week that Iran would have to move faster on its diplomacy or slower on its nuclear program to provide enough space for a deal.
What he is saying: McGurk said the talks are close “to a culmination point” and the U.S. will soon know if Iran is ready to return to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal on terms Washington can accept.
- Despite his relative optimism, McGurk said the U.S. was prepared for the possibility that the talks would collapse without a deal.
- He also said the Biden administration remains focused on restoring the 2015 accord and is not interested in a “less for less” interim deal.