Talks With Iran Have Reached ‘Urgent Point’: White House

By Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.
February 9, 2022 Updated: February 9, 2022

The White House says that if Iran keeps accelerating its nuclear program, it will soon be impossible to return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

The eighth round of talks to revive the deal resumed in Vienna Tuesday and a day later, in defiance of Western demands to halt its ballistic missile work, Tehran unveiled a new domestically-made missile with a range of 1,450 kilometers—capable of hitting the U.S. and Israeli military bases in the region.

At a White House press briefing on Wednesday, press secretary Jen Psaki said talks with Iran have reached an “urgent point.”

“[A deal] is in sight, but if it is not reached in the coming weeks, Iran’s ongoing nuclear advancements will make it impossible to return to the JCPOA,” Psaki said, using the acronym for the official name of the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Psaki also pointed to comments she made back in December when she said that President Joe Biden asked his team to prepare for “a range of contingencies” including measures to further restrict Iran’s revenue-producing sectors should diplomacy with its leaders fail.

Former President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018 and reimposed sanctions against Iran. Tehran responded by violating the terms of the agreement by increasing the uranium it enriches and stockpiles.

The Biden administration has signaled that it wants to rejoin the deal—which also includes Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China—saying it addresses the “core concerns” of all sides.

Republicans remain critical of the deal and the administration’s efforts to rejoin. A group of 33 Republican senators made demands for more Congressional oversight, with threats to block any future deals with Iran in a letter to Biden on Monday.

“We also write to emphasize that we are committed to using the full range of options and leverage available to United States Senators to ensure that you meet those obligations, and that the implementation of any agreement will be severely if not terminally hampered if you do not,” reads the letter.

United States special Iran envoy Rob Malley has run point on the Vienna talks and gave a classified briefing to members of Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Politico reports Malley told Senators that Iran could make enough material for nuclear bomb in “weeks” if the regime decides it wants one.

Tehran has demanded that Washington lift the sanctions put in place by the Trump administration if the United States wants to reenter the deal.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday signed several short-term sanctions waivers related to Iran’s civilian nuclear activities last week. The State Department denied that the move grants concessions to Iran but instead permits international partners to address growing nuclear nonproliferation and safety risks in Iran.

Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.