The Biden administration is grappling with a new dilemma as nuclear talks with Iran come to a halt: Will more pressure on Iran help the Iranians back into the 2015 deal, or lead Iran to step up its nuclear program, US and Israeli officials told Nerdshala.
why it matters: The Iranian nuclear program has made significant progress in recent months that will be difficult to roll back – and it could potentially undermine the benefits of salvaging the 2015 agreement, especially if a deal is not reached soon.
running news: Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid told national security adviser Jake Sullivan in their meeting at the White House on Tuesday that Israel fears Iran is becoming a “nuclear border state.”
- Lapid told Sullivan that given the current impasse, the nuclear deal needed an alternative plan.
Behind the scenes: Israeli officials told Nerdshala that the dilemma was at the heart of the last round of US-Israel strategic talks about Iran’s nuclear program last week.
- The Israeli side pushed the US team headed by Sullivan to put more pressure on Iran through additional sanctions, sabotage operations and warnings against the nuclear program, and warned that if Iran continues its nuclear provocation, A military option may be on the table, the Israeli official said.
- The US side agreed the need to counter Iran’s latest actions, but said it was concerned that such moves could generate an Iranian backlash. The sabotage attempts damaged Iran’s advanced centrifuge facility, for which Iran blamed Israel, prompting Iranians to step up their program and providing an excuse to limit access to UN inspectors, sources said. gave information on the talks.
- The Israelis then asked the US side if there was a deadline to end the current limbo and take any action against Iran, Israeli officials told Nerdshala.
- The US side said it expects increasing pressure on Iran from Russia and Iran’s struggling economy could lead Iranians to a nuclear deal.
- One of the decisions in the talks was to assess the Iranian economy, identify pressure points and also identify what actions against Iran could be counterproductive.
What are they saying: An Israeli official said the US dilemma is real and Israel understands it. “We know they’re looking for the right balance, but we want to know how long it’s going to take,” he said.
- A senior US official told Nerdshala: “Given the pressure from Iran, we want to see which steps will be effective and which ones may be counterproductive. Thus, we are engaged in detailed, strategic dialogue with partners and allies. We are engaged in what steps will really move us closer to our shared objective – ensuring that Iran never develops a nuclear weapon.”
- But, US envoy to Iran Rob Malle made a more pessimistic assessment of where the nuclear talks are during a virtual event today at the Carnegie Endowment.
- Mali said every day the US receives signals that the new Iranian government does not want to go back to full compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.
- “We have to be prepared for a world where there are no constraints on Iran’s nuclear program and we have to consider options to deal with it. That is what we are doing, while we hope they will go back to the deal,” Malle said. he said.
What will happen next: Malee said he would visit Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar in the coming days to discuss the Iranian issue.