US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made clear on Saturday that the US is committed to solving the Iran nuclear issue using diplomacy, but will consider all options if diplomacy fails.
"The United States remains committed to preventing Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon. And we remain committed to a diplomatic outcome of the nuclear issue. But if Iran isn't willing to engage seriously, then we will look at all the options necessary to keep the United States secure," Austin said in a speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Manama Dialogue 2021 taking place in Manama, Bahrain.
"We and our partners will return to those talks in good faith. But Iran's actions in recent months have not been encouraging — especially because of the expansion of their nuclear program," he continued.
"If Iran comes back with constructive positions, we still think we can quickly resolve our lingering differences to make a mutual return to the JCPOA possible," he added.
"We urge Iran to do its part, and to take steps to reduce violence and conflict. But whatever Iran decides, we will continue to work closely with our partners. Iran should have no illusions that it can undermine our strong relationships in this region. And we will defend ourselves, and we will defend our friends and we will defend our interests," Austin stressed.
Austin said the Defense Department is working with partners in the region to address threats from Iran, its proxies and terrorist organizations. Those threats include unmanned aerial vehicles, boats loaded with explosives and ballistic missiles, he added.
The comments come ahead of the resumption of nuclear talks between Iran and world powers on November 29.
Ahead of the resumption of talks, Iran has demanded that the US lift sanctions imposed on Iran as part of the nuclear talks and also reassure Iran it will not abandon the deal again.