A senior State Department official said Thursday that a return to a multinational nuclear accord with Iran is possible ahead of presidential elections on June 18. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is ineligible from running as he has already served two, four-year terms. File Photo by Iranian Presidency Office/EPA-EFE
May 6 (UPI) -- The United States and Iran could return to compliance with an Obama-era nuclear deal within weeks, a senior Biden administration official said Thursday, but the decision to do so is up to Tehran.
Ahead of a fourth round of indirect talks between the two sides in Vienna this week, a senior State Department official told reporters on the condition of anonymity that the last three rounds have helped to "crystallize" what both nations need to do to return to mutual compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a multination 2015 agreement aimed at preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon.
The official said the issues are rather clear as they are written in the deal that then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from in 2018.
"If Iran makes the political decision that it genuinely wants to return to the JCPOA as the JCPOA was negotiated, then it could be done relatively quickly and implementation could be relatively swift," the official said. "But we don't know if Iran has made that decision. We don't know if they've decided that they're prepared for a strict mutual return to compliance and whether they're prepared to do so now."
To return to compliance, Washington would have to remove hefty sanctions it imposed on Tehran following Trump's withdrawal. For Tehran to return, it would generally have to walk back the retaliatory steps it took to distance itself from the accord.
"So, is it possible that we'll see a mutual return to compliance in the next few weeks or an understanding of a mutual return to compliance? It's possible, yes. Is it likely? Only time will tell."
The senior official said the the Trump administration's policy has shown that without the agreement, Iran's nuclear program gallops forward and Tehran becomes more aggressive. President Joe Biden's plan is to use the JCPOA to achieve a longer, stronger deal that addresses issues of regional security.
"If Iran is not prepared to do that, the Biden administration will deal with the situation and will do everything it can to make sure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons. So, we're prepared for that scenario as well," the official said, adding that returning to the JCPOA is their preferred option.
The talks have so far been constructive, but Iran has made "unrealistic demands," he said, explaining it has asked for more sanctions relief than required under the JCPOA while offering "unrealistic commitments" concerning adhering to its end of the deal.
Asked if a deal can be achieved before the Iranian presidential election on June 18, the official said "absolutely," but that is up to Iran.
"If Iran makes that political determination that it is not going to ask more from the U.S. in terms of sanctions relief than what a return to compliance with the JCPOA requires and it's not going to do less in terms of its nuclear commitments than a return to compliance requires, then that could be done relatively quickly," the official said.