Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Iran's elections in June are not a factor in the Biden administration’s decision-making for how to proceed with nuclear talks, State Department Iran envoy Rob Malley told me in his first interview since taking office.

Why it matters: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Mohammad Javad Zarif, who pushed for the 2015 nuclear deal and supported engagement with the U.S., are not running in June's elections and will finish their terms in August. The next Iranian president is likely to be more skeptical of nuclear diplomacy with the U.S.

  • "We don’t intend to base the pace of our discussions on the Iranian elections — the pace will be determined by how far we can get consistent with defending U.S. national security interests," Malley said.
  • "In other words, we won’t rush or slow things because of the Iranian elections."

Driving the news: Malley said the U.S. has made clear to Iran it is ready to engage in a serious diplomatic process to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the nuclear deal. 

  • “Our view is that direct talks are more effective and less prone to misunderstanding, but for us, the substance is more important than the format," Malley said.

The big picture: The Biden administration will be ready to consider some sanctions relief for Iran only after talks between the parties resume and only as part of a reciprocal process, senior State Department officials tell me.

  • “Possible U.S. steps with regard to sanctions can be on the table but we need to get into a conversation with Iran, whether direct or indirect," a senior State Department official said.
  • "The president will not take unilateral steps when it comes to removing sanctions. Any substantial move by the U.S. will have to be part of a process in which both sides take actions."

The other side: So far, U.S. efforts to re-engage with Iran have met with a cool response from Iranian leaders.

  • The Iranians are demanding that the U.S. make the first move, but President Biden isn't prepared to meet their demands for unilateral sanctions relief before Iran returns to full compliance with the nuclear deal.
  • Flashback: The Trump administration made several requests to meet with their Iranian counterparts, but Iran made clear it would not meet until the U.S. provided some sanctions relief.
  • “That remains their position” under Biden, a senior State Department official told me.

Behind the scenes: The Biden administration wasn't surprised by Iran's tough position, the senior official says.

  • The official added that the Iranians were surprised and disappointed that Biden hadn't moved more quickly to lift sanctions and re-enter the deal.
  • Nevertheless, Biden's position remains the same: The U.S. is prepared to resume full compliance with the deal if Iran does, “and we are ready to engage in meaningful diplomacy to get there,” the official said.

What’s next: Once talks with Iran resume, State Department officials believe one of the sticking points will be the sides' different interpretations of what it means to get back to full compliance.

  • “Those will have to be negotiated. That’s why we expect there could be difficult talks, even as we both agree on the goal, and even as we agree on a road map to get there,” the State Department official told me.

Meanwhile, the State Department's Iran team is slowly taking shape. Malley recruited nuclear weapons and sanctions expert Richard Nephew — a member of the U.S. negotiating team during the talks that led to the 2015 deal — as his deputy.

  • Another member of the team is Jarrett Blanc, who led the implementation of the deal under Barack Obama. More members are expected to be added.
  • Malley told me the internal discussions on the way forward include a range of views. “For every person I speak to who agrees with me I try to speak to another person who does not,” he said.

Go deeper

Reports: More than 100 Republicans threaten to form 3rd party over Trump

Former President Trump addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, in February. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

More than 100 Republicans will sign a letter Thursday threatening to create a third party if the GOP doesn't "break" with former President Trump, Reuters first reported.

Why it matters: Per Axios' Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, Trump's grip on the GOP has gotten stronger since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The Republican Party's "allegiance to Trump" as he continues to make false claims about his 2020 election loss has "dismayed" the group, according to Reuters.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

In photos: Dozens dead as Israel and Hamas intensify aerial bombardments

People gather at the site of a collapsed building in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes on Gaza City on May 11. Photo: Mahmud Hams / AFP) (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images

At least 35 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed as fighting between Israel's military and Hamas entered a third day, per Reuters.

The big picture: The worst aerial exchanges of fire between Israel and Hamas since 2014 come after escalating violence in Jerusalem that injured hundreds of Palestinians and several Israeli police officers during protests over the planned evictions of Palestinian families from their homes.

Scoop: Stephanie Murphy announcing challenge to Marco Rubio

Rep. Stephanie Murphy. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy is planning to announce a campaign for the U.S. Senate in Florida against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio in early June, people familiar with the matter tell Axios.

Why it matters: Murphy is a proven fundraiser. Jumping in now would give her an early start to build her case for the Democratic nomination and potentially force Rubio and allied GOP groups to spend heavily to retain a seat in a state that’s trending Republican.