US Envoy: Iran Is Very Close to Producing Nuclear Weapon

US envoy to Iran, Robert Malley, in Rome in December. (File photo: AP)
US envoy to Iran, Robert Malley, in Rome in December. (File photo: AP)
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US Envoy: Iran Is Very Close to Producing Nuclear Weapon

US envoy to Iran, Robert Malley, in Rome in December. (File photo: AP)
US envoy to Iran, Robert Malley, in Rome in December. (File photo: AP)

US envoy to Iran Robert Malley confirmed that Tehran is "very, very close" to obtaining sufficient quantities of enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon.

However, he refused to declare the end of diplomacy in the efforts of President Joe Biden's administration to return to the nuclear agreement, warning that the military option is the "last resort" although it is "very difficult and very dangerous."

In an interview with the BBC's HARDtalk program, Malley said that "diplomacy never ends" when it comes to Iran, even if accompanied by "sanctions, pressure, countering what they are doing in the region, and also mobilizing the international community" and in conjunction with "the indirect negotiations with Iran."

Malley has been a key figure in US-Middle East policymaking under three Democrat administrations for Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and now Biden.

He recalled that US officials have announced publicly they would continue the indirect talks but "will not hesitate to take other steps to stop Iran's aggressive behavior or to curb its nuclear program."

He added that the issue "is not an either-or; it is not diplomacy or the rest. Everything goes hand in hand."

The US official avoided saying whether Iran now poses a greater threat to US national security than it was when Biden assumed the presidency nearly two years ago, but he admitted that "we already inherited a very dangerous situation because of the reckless decision by the prior administration to withdraw from the deal that was working."

Malley acknowledged that "Iran's nuclear program has advanced. No doubt about it. No question."

The US, its European allies, and others are "far more united today than they were" under former US President Donald Trump and are united more than ever, and this "puts us in a much stronger position to confront Iran."

"Things have gotten worse. Iran has developed its nuclear program in ways that are very dangerous, but we are more united, and we have a stronger position from which to counter Iran."

When asked if he confirmed a previous statement by Biden in which he said the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), "is dead," Malley replied: "I wasn't hired to write obituaries."

However, he revealed that Iran had "turned down multiple opportunities to end this crisis and to get back into the deal. [...] They are the ones who turned their backs on it."

Moreover, the envoy distinguished between Iranians being "very, very close" to having enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb and close enough to obtaining a bomb, which he described as a different question.

He declared that Iran has not resumed its "weaponization program and efforts to acquire a weapon," adding that if they did, "the circumstances would change."

"We are not comfortable with them being as close as they are today, and that's why we're both pursuing a diplomatic path," said Malley, recalling that, "President Biden said that if that option fails, all other options will be on the table," including the military option which he described as "far from our preference" and a "last resort."

He stressed that the military option is not the US' "first option" because it is "a very difficult option. It's a very dangerous option," adding that Biden would only do it if necessary.

Asked about Israel, Malley said Tel Aviv has its interests and perception of Iran, adding: "We did not always agree on the tactics. I think we agree on the objective, which is to make sure that Iran can't acquire a nuclear weapon."

Malley denied that the current US-Israeli military maneuvers aim to prepare for a military plan for an attack against Iran.

Rather, they are designed to project Washington's support to Israel and ensure that the "US and Israel together can work to defend their common interests," [...] regardless of what is happening in Ukraine and what is happening in the Russian theater, in the European theater," he explained.

The envoy renewed US support for human rights and basic freedoms in Iran, asserting that it continues to counter Tehran's support for Russia in the war against Ukraine and its threats against American citizens.

Furthermore, Malley stressed that Washington was not seeking regime change in Iran, clarifying that "our task is to stand up for the Iranian people."



Foreign Leaders React to Biden Ending Reelection Campaign

 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers remarks at a Chief of the Defense Staff change of command ceremony between Gen. Wayne Eyre and Gen. Jennie Carignan at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, on Thursday, July 18, 2024. (The Canadian Press via AP)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers remarks at a Chief of the Defense Staff change of command ceremony between Gen. Wayne Eyre and Gen. Jennie Carignan at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, on Thursday, July 18, 2024. (The Canadian Press via AP)
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Foreign Leaders React to Biden Ending Reelection Campaign

 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers remarks at a Chief of the Defense Staff change of command ceremony between Gen. Wayne Eyre and Gen. Jennie Carignan at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, on Thursday, July 18, 2024. (The Canadian Press via AP)
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers remarks at a Chief of the Defense Staff change of command ceremony between Gen. Wayne Eyre and Gen. Jennie Carignan at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, on Thursday, July 18, 2024. (The Canadian Press via AP)

Following are some reactions from foreign leaders and officials to US President Joe Biden's decision on Sunday to end his campaign to seek reelection in November:

CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU

"I’ve known President Biden for years. He’s a great man, and everything he does is guided by his love for his country. As President, he is a partner to Canadians — and a true friend. To President Biden and the First Lady: thank you."

GERMAN CHANCELLOR OLAF SCHOLZ, ON X

"Joe Biden has achieved a great deal: for his country, for Europe, for the world. Thanks to him, transatlantic cooperation is close, NATO is strong and the USA is a good and reliable partner for us. His decision not to run again deserves recognition."

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER KEIR STARMER:

"I respect President Biden's decision and I look forward to us working together during the remainder of his presidency," Starmer said in a statement.

"I know that, as he has done throughout his remarkable career, President Biden will have made his decision based on what he believes is in the best interests of the American people."

ISRAELI MINISTER OF DEFENSE YOAV GALLANT

"Thank you President Joe Biden, for your unwavering support of Israel over the years. Your steadfast backing, especially during the war, has been invaluable. We are grateful for your leadership and friendship."

SPANISH PRIME MINISTER PEDRO SANCHEZ ON X:

"All my admiration and recognition for the brave and dignified decision of the president @JoeBiden. Thanks to its determination and leadership, the US overcame the economic crisis after the pandemic and the serious assault on the Capitol and has been exemplary in its support for Ukraine in the face of Putin's Russian aggression. A great gesture from a great president who has always fought for democracy and freedom."

IRISH PRIME MINISTER SIMON HARRIS:

"On behalf of the people and government of Ireland. I ... would like to thank you Mr President for your global leadership and your friendship as you make your announcement that you will not stand in the 2024 US Presidential election," Harris said in a statement.

"Joe Biden, in all the offices he has held, has always been an unwavering voice and passionate worker for peace on the island of Ireland and our country owes him a great debt for this."

KREMLIN SPOKESMAN DMITRY PESKOV, SPEAKING TO SHOT NEWS OUTLET:

"The elections are still four months away, and that is a long period of time in which a lot can change. We need to be patient and carefully monitor what happens. The priority for us is the special military operation," Peskov said, referring to the war in Ukraine.

NORWEGIAN PRIME MINISTER JONAS GAHR STOERE:

"I respect President Joe Biden's decision not to run for re-election. He justifies the decision by saying that he wants to put the country before himself. That reasoning commands respect," Stoere said in a statement to Reuters.

"Joe Biden has been one of America's most prominent politicians over several decades, and a president who has carried out several important reforms. I particularly commend him for his leadership in NATO and look forward to working with Biden as the president of the United States until the end of January."

POLISH PRIME MINISTER DONALD TUSK ON X:

"Mr. President @JoeBiden, many times you have made difficult decisions that have made Poland, America, and the world safer, and democracy and freedom stronger. I know that you were guided by the same principles when announcing your latest decision. Perhaps the most difficult one in your life."

CZECH PRIME MINISTER PETR FIALA ON X:

"It is undoubtedly the decision of a statesman who has served his country for decades. It is a responsible and personally difficult step, but it is all the more valuable. I am keeping my fingers crossed for the USA that a good president emerges from the democratic competition of two strong and equal candidates."