Nuclear Iran
Nuclear Iran iStock

A senior US State Department official said that Iran had proven it was "not serious" about the negotiations to return to the 2015 nuclear deal.

"As you all know, we’ve been waiting patiently for five and a half months. The Iranian Government said that it needed time to get ready to resume the talks on a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA, and I think what we’ve seen over the last week or so is what getting ready meant for them. And more importantly, not only did we see it, I think our partners and others – Russia, China, others – have seen – have witnessed what Iran meant by getting ready," the official told reporters.

"It meant continuing to accelerate their nuclear program in particularly provocative ways, and their latest provocation as reported by the IAEA only on Wednesday, i.e. while we were still in the middle of talks, was to prepare for the doubling of their production capacity of 20 percent enriched uranium at Fordow. What getting ready meant was to continue to stonewall the IAEA despite efforts – again, by all of the P5+1 – constructive efforts to find a way forward between Director General Grossi and Iran.

"And, of course, most importantly or most visibly while we were in Vienna, what getting ready meant was to come with proposals that walked back anything – any of the compromises that Iran had floated during the sixth round of talks, pocket all of the compromises that others and the U.S. in particular had made, and then ask for more; in other words, not come back with a serious proposal about how we could resume mutual compliance with the JCPOA, but raising issues that go beyond the JCPOA, and on their side not being prepared to take the steps that, again, I think not just the U.S., not just the U.S. and E3, but all of the P5+1 thought was a reasonable basis to resume talks. And so I think you’ve heard from other of our colleagues – as I said, not just the Europeans, but the Russians and Chinese – some impatience that after all this time what Iran came back with was to walk back anything that they had floated and to assume that they could pocket all of the compromises that others had made.

"Iran’s justification for continuing its nuclear advances has been that they will continue them as long as the United States is not back in compliance, which was – is a justification that doesn’t hold water when the U.S. has said and the world has witnessed that we are prepared to come back into compliance if Iran agrees to reasonable agreement for a mutual return, which they have not done. And so they’re the reason why there’s not a return, mutual return to compliance, and therefore that can’t serve as a justification for them continuing to accelerate their nuclear steps.

"Secretary Blinken has said we can’t accept a situation in which Iran accelerates its nuclear program and slow-walks its nuclear diplomacy. That’s not a situation with which we or others can live. So – and I – in terms of the next steps, I think what’s clear is that – again, and we’ve heard this not just from our traditional partners, we’ve heard this from the Russians, we’ve heard this from the Chinese, we certainly have heard it from the GCC countries when a U.S. delegation visited there not long ago – the world is prepared to support a mutual return to compliance by both sides. The world is prepared even to engage economically with Iran and diplomatically with Iran. But for that, Iran has to show seriousness at the table and be prepared to come back in short order in compliance with the deal, as the U.S. has said that it is prepared to do and as President Biden has said he prepared to do and to stay in compliance with the deal as long as Iran is.

"So we are still – that is still our goal, that is still our mindset, and that’s what we’re prepared to return to Vienna to do. We don’t know when the EU coordinator will reconvene talks, but frankly, the date of those talks, the date of that resumption matters far less to us than whether Iran will come back with a serious attitude, prepared to negotiate seriously. And if they are, they will find a very serious counterpart on the other side, which is the United States. But we’ll have to wait and see if they take that position, because so far what we’ve seen both in Vienna, at their – in their nuclear program, and in their dealings with the IAEA, unfortunately suggests the opposite," he said.

When asked to elaborate on Russia and China's reaction to Iran's negotiating tactics, he said: "First, I’m not going to speak for Russia and China; you’ll have to – obviously, you’ll have to ask them. But I do think what has been manifest is that they have said, even though they don’t have – they don’t share our views (inaudible) when it comes to the negotiations, I think it’s fair to say that they also were quite taken aback by the degree to which Iran had walked back its own compromises and then doubled down on the request that it made of the – of us and of others. I think that – I’m not saying that they would share our view entirely, but I think they do think they do share a sense of disappointment, to put it diplomatically, at what the last several months – what Iran has chosen to do with the last several months of preparation."

"As for whether we would walk away from the table or not, again, I don’t – we’ll decide what we do. I think the point is not so much whether we walk away from the table, it’s whether the JCPOA, which was a deal that was laboriously negotiated, that was designed to serve the mutual interests of all of the parties in the P5+1, whether it can still survive. And we’ve long said, Secretary Blinken has said for some time that it won’t go on forever. And I would say that the time that we have for – the time that the JCPOA has for still remaining a viable deal is inversely proportional to the speed with which Iran advances its nuclear program. If they choose to accelerate their nuclear program, as they seem to have done of late, then there’d be less time left for the JCPOA to be resurrected.

"So we’ll have to see. Again, I’ve always said it’s less a chronological clock than it’s a technological clock, and Iran has chosen to accelerate that technological clock, which carries very troubling implications for whether the JCPOA can be revived. Our view is it still can be today; that’s President Biden’s view. That’s why we were in Vienna trying to work to get – to make sure that we could return to mutual compliance, but that can’t last forever," he said,