Oct 31, 2022 - World

U.S. "not going to waste time" on Iran deal right now, official says

The flag of Iran in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters. Photo: Michael Gruber/Getty Images

The flag of Iran in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency headquarters. Photo: Michael Gruber/Getty Images

The Biden administration is not going to "waste time" on trying to revive the Iran nuclear deal at this time considering Tehran's crackdown on protesters, Iranian support for Russia's war in Ukraine, and Iran's positions on its nuclear program, U.S. envoy for Iran Rob Malley said on Monday.

Why it matters: While the Biden administration has not formally said the nuclear talks are dead, Malley's comments at a Carnegie Endowment event were the closest the U.S. has come to admitting there's no path forward.

State of play: There has been no movement in the talks with Iran since Iranian officials rejected an EU proposal and presented more demands in late August-early September, Malley said.

  • He noted that since then, protests have broken out in Iran over the death of a woman in police custody and growing evidence has emerged about Iran's support for Russia in Ukraine. The Biden administration is now focused on these two issues, Malley said.

What they're saying: The nuclear talks are "not our focus right now," Malley said.

  • "It is not on our agenda. We are not going to focus on something which is inert when other things are happening…and we are not going to waste our time on it… if Iran has taken the position it has taken," Malley said.

Between the lines: Another senior Biden administration official recently told Axios the White House position on the nuclear talks was even tougher.

  • The official said that Tehran's response to the protests coupled with Iran’s support of Russia’s war in Ukraine fundamentally changed the situation, and therefore, even if Iran came back to the table today and said it wanted a nuclear deal, the U.S. was unlikely to move forward.
  • The official added that the administration is already looking at the situation as if there is no nuclear deal and is taking steps to ensure the U.S. has a ready military option.

The big picture: Malley said the Biden administration hasn’t given up on diplomacy to solve the Iranian nuclear issue, but noted that President Biden is ready to use military means as a last resort to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

What to watch: Malley said the U.S. is going to focus on using sanctions and other pressure tools to deal with Iran’s support for Russia and the crackdown on the protests.

  • “There is nothing we are not doing because we are thinking about a potential nuclear deal in the future. We are not tying our hands," he said.

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