US officials say negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program are at a crossroads

US State Department officials warned in a briefing with reporters on Monday that restoring the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action may be “impossible” due to Iran’s nuclear advances.

The senior State Department official also said it was “difficult to imagine” restoring the JCPOA agreement without Iran also releasing four Americans held hostage by Iranian forces.

Unless progress is made, the official said, Iran’s nuclear capabilities could exceed the limits imposed by the JCPOA, creating an “extremely dangerous” situation for the Middle East and the world.

“We’re in the home stretch, because as we’ve been saying for some time, this can’t go on forever because of Iran’s nuclear progress,” said the senior State Department official who asked remain anonymous.

“It’s not a prediction. It’s not a threat. It’s not an artificial deadline. It’s just a demand that we indirectly passed on to Iran and all of our P5+1 partners. for some time, namely that given the pace of Iran’s advances, nuclear advances, we only have a few weeks left to conclude an agreement, after which it will unfortunately not be possible to return to the JCPOA and to recover the non-proliferation benefits that the agreement has given us.

The official said time was short and it could be “weeks, not months” before Iran could obtain fissile nuclear material.

Iranian officials pledged last month not to seek uranium enrichment above 60%. But without the JCPOA, continued Iranian efforts could achieve 90% uranium enrichment, making the construction of a nuclear weapon more likely.

“We are coming at the last moment, after which we will no longer be able to return to the JCPOA because it will no longer have the value we negotiated,” the official said.

“We have been in this business for about 10 months. The last time we were in Vienna, the January negotiations were among the most intense we have had to date. And we’ve made progress narrowing the list of differences to keep priorities on all sides.

But the official stressed that for Iran, “the time has come to make political decisions. Now is the time to decide whether, for Iran to decide, whether it is ready to make the decisions necessary for a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA.

The 159-page JCPOA was signed on July 14, 2015 by Iran and the P5+1 countries, which include China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. It was ratified by the UN on July 29, 2015.

However, US President Trump pulled out of the deal on May 8, 2018, and reimposed punitive economic sanctions on Tehran, which included severe restrictions on its ability to sell oil. The senior State Department official called Trump’s action “catastrophic.”

Leaders of the National Council of Resistance of Iran denounced the JCPOA, saying Iran would not honor its commitments, and called for tougher sanctions to cripple the regime’s oppressive leadership.

“The behavior of the Iranian regime, especially over the past year, clearly shows that Supreme Leader Khamenei, using the negotiations as a cover to buy time, is rapidly rushing towards the construction of the nuclear bomb. Raisi’s selection to become the regime’s president is meant to serve a two-pronged purpose, gaining concessions from the West and intensifying repression against a rebellious population seeking to overthrow the regime in Iran,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, director deputy of the Washington bureau of the NCRI.

“The United States and the 5+1 P have only one option, which is to quickly change course before it is too late and reimpose all UN Security Council resolutions and to hold the regime accountable for its gross violations.”

US President Biden sought to restore the JCPOA by participating in indirect talks with Iran in Vienna 10 months ago, the official said.

“We will know sooner or later if we are, if the United States is back in the JCPOA and Iran is back in full implementation of its obligations under the JCPOA, or if we are going to have to face to a different reality, a reality of mounting tensions and crises,” he said.

The Biden administration has been clear over the past 10 months of negotiations in Vienna, he said, that returning to the JCPOA would “advance fundamental U.S. national interests” and “end the current crisis.” of nuclear non-proliferation”.

“It would create an opportunity to depressurize the wider regional crisis. In other words, it would take us out of the situation we inherited from the catastrophic mistake of the previous administration to withdraw from the JCPOA, which left us with an unconstrained Iranian nuclear program and inadequate, if not totally unsatisfactory to deal with it,” a senior State Department official said.

“We know that it is very possible that Iran will choose not to go down this path and we are ready to deal with that eventuality. We hope that is not the decision taken by Iran. But we are ready to face one or the other.

He declined to say what steps might be taken in response to the failure of negotiations to reinstate the JCPOA agreement, or to discuss details of concerns about the four Americans being held hostage by Iranian forces.

But the official said, “We are negotiating the release of detainees separately from the JCPOA. But as we said, it is very difficult for us to imagine a return to the JCPOA when four innocent Americans are behind bars or detained in Iran.

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