A group of 40 former government officials and top non-proliferation experts urged US President Joe Biden to successfully complete negotiations to return to the nuclear deal, warning that Tehran was a week or two away from producing enough uranium for the production of nuclear weapons.
In a statement, due to be issued on Thursday, experts said that failure to reverse the policies of the former US President Donald Trump’s administration, which withdrew from the agreement in 2018, would be “irresponsible” and “would increase the danger that Iran would become a threshold nuclear-weapon state.”
A report published by The Washington Post said that all parties to the ongoing negotiations in Vienna have expressed pessimism about the possibility of reaching a new agreement to revive the 2015 deal, under which Iran sharply limited its nuclear program and placed it under strict international verification in exchange for the lifting of US and international sanctions.
Following the US withdrawal from the agreement in 2018, Trump reinstated the sanctions on Iran and imposed even more. In response, Tehran increased its uranium enrichment far beyond the agreed limits.
When Biden took office, he promised to return to the old deal.
Indirect negotiations, which began in April 2021 through European mediators, have so far failed to reach a final agreement, as Iran insisted on an earlier demand that the United States lift its foreign terrorist designation against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), “a concession that Biden’s advisers say would be politically untenable.”
The Washington Post report noted that although the negotiations have not formally broken off, they have been suspended since last month. EU officials, who were coordinating the talks, tried unsuccessfully to reach a compromise, by trying to persuade Washington to offer a partial lifting of the IRGC designation and urging Tehran to respond with concessions on areas of US concern outside the framework of the nuclear deal, including Iran’s support for foreign proxy militias and its ballistic missile program.
All Republican lawmakers, along with a number of Democrats, have expressed, according to The Washington Post, their opposition to any agreement with Iran.
The newspaper added that widespread agreement prevailed within the US administration on the dangers of not renewing the agreement, in parallel with significant differences over whether the nuclear risk outweighs the political minefield.
The report noted that Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign to punish Iran, which he said was aimed at reaching a “better” or “more comprehensive deal”, “not only failed to produce the promised results; it also opened the way for Iran to take steps to breach the JCPOA’s nuclear limits and accelerate its capacity to produce bomb-grade nuclear material.”
“It is now estimated that the time it would take Iran to produce a significant quantity (25kg) of bomb-grade uranium … is down from more than a year under the JCPOA to approximately one or two weeks today,” the report warned.