The US is preparing for an outcome where no deal is reached with Iran to curb its nuclear program, Washington’s lead negotiator said Thursday.
But there is still time to reach a deal, and the US is ready to get back into the 2015 nuclear deal “as soon as possible, as soon as Iran is,” US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley said.
The US and Iran have been engaged in indirect talks over returning to the now-defunct JCPOA, from which former US President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018.
Iran is demanding the lifting of all US sanctions before returning to the deal in exchange for a cap on its nuclear program. The previous agreement, brokered by former President Barack Obama, failed to address Iran’s support for militias across the region and its ballistic missile program.
“We are privileging the path of diplomacy,” Malley told Al Jazeera, adding that it was the best way forward.
“We suspect it’s best for Iran, but Iran will have to decide,” he said.
While the US has repeatedly voiced its willingness to reenter the JCPOA, an acronym for the 2015 deal, it has also waited for almost one year.
The Biden administration quickly said it wanted to reenter the deal, but presidential elections in Iran resulted in a so-called hardline government that stalled talks for months.
In the meantime, Iran has continued increasing the materials and enriching the uranium needed for a nuclear bomb.
The US will lift all sanctions “inconsistent with the JCPOA” if a deal is reached, Malley said.
“But in the meantime, we can’t stand by and not be prepared for a world in which Iran may be choosing to delay the program, try to build more leverage,” Malley said. “We obviously have to respond. And so, that’s what we’re doing. We’re preparing ourselves for that outcome.”