Donald Trump
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With the Iran nuclear talks reaching a critical moment, the White House plans to focus much of its public messaging in the coming weeks on attacking former President Donald Trump for leaving the 2015 deal, two sources briefed on the White House plans told Barak Ravid of Axios on Wednesday.

The Biden administration thinks it's now just a matter of weeks before the critical decision point: Either a deal will be reached and the US will return to the nuclear deal or talks will break down and the administration will move to put more pressure on Iran, the sources said.

Both scenarios will generate political backlash, particularly from Republicans, but the White House wants to keep Democrats together in part by emphasizing that it was Trump who triggered this crisis and left them with only bad options.

"They are going to focus the fire on Trump," one source said.

A senior administration official told Ravid the White House would "continue to clearly state the facts and set the record straight at this critical moment for diplomacy and important point in history."

According to the two sources, the Biden administration has set the end of January or early February as the deadline to make a decision and intends to ramp up its public messaging on Iran before then.

The White House hopes the message will be amplified by current and former officials in the US and in Israel who believe Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal was a mistake.

During Tuesday's State Department press briefing, spokesperson Ned Price diverted from a question about the Vienna talks into an attack on the Trump administration.

“It’s worth spending just a moment on how we got here," Price said. "It is deeply unfortunate that because of an ill-considered or perhaps unconsidered decision by the previous administration that this administration came into office without these stringent verification and monitoring protocols that were in place."

Price said the Trump administration promised a better deal “that never came close" and instead "Iran has been able to gallop forward with its nuclear promise."

Iran has gradually scaled back its compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal it signed with world powers in response to Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in May of 2018.

However, it has held indirect talks with the US on reviving the deal. Negotiations to restore the deal resumed in late November after they were suspended in June, with the eighth round of the talks in Vienna having continued for almost two weeks now.

Western diplomats have indicated they are hoping to have a breakthrough by the end of January or early February, but sharp differences remain with the toughest issues still unresolved.

On Sunday, Iran's Foreign Minister said the talks are approaching a "good agreement" but reaching one soon depends on the other parties.

On Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that Iran and world powers are still far from any agreement to revive the 2015 nuclear deal despite recent progress.

"The discussions are ongoing. They are slow, too slow and that creates a gap that jeopardizes the chance of finding a solution that respects the interests of all sides," Le Drian told a parliamentary hearing.

"Bits of progress were made at the end of December, but we are still far from concluding this negotiation," he added.

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