Apr 27, 2022 - World

U.S. not shutting door on possible Iran nuclear deal — for now

Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo: Bonnie Cash/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo: Bonnie Cash/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration for now is not shutting the door on a possible return to the Iran nuclear deal, despite a weekslong stalemate in the talks.

The big picture: The indirect negotiations between the U.S. and Iran in Vienna were paused six weeks ago with no resumption in sight.

State of play: The key issue preventing a deal is Iran’s demand that the U.S. remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the U.S. blacklist of foreign terrorist organizations.

  • Iranian officials have refused several U.S. proposals on this issue, and the Biden administration has made clear it won’t make such a move unilaterally.
  • Secretary of State Tony Blinken, during a congressional hearing Tuesday, said it's still possible to come to an understanding about the IRGC that could pave the way for a nuclear deal.
  • Blinken said the Biden administration could lift the terror designation from the IRGC if Iran takes the necessary steps to justify it. “Iran knows what it would have to do," Blinken said. The U.S. previously demanded Tehran make a public commitment to de-escalation in the region.

Between the lines: Biden administration officials said they think the door should be left open both because Iran might agree to give up on its demands regarding the IRGC and because walking away from the table would put the blame for the failure on the United States.

  • Don't forget: The Biden administration has previously said the talks won't be open-ended and put forward several unofficial deadlines for a deal, which have all passed.

What they're saying: "We are going to pursue a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA as long as it remains in our national interest to do so," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said yesterday, referring to the Iran deal, known as the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

What to watch: Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell agreed in a phone call that the pause in the talks is negative, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said yesterday.

  • He added that Iran believes it would be better to resume meetings in person but didn’t mention where or at what level.
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