Nuclear Iran
Nuclear Iran iStock

The Biden administration expects a restored nuclear deal with Iran would leave the Islamic Republic capable of amassing enough nuclear fuel for a bomb in significantly less than a year, a shorter time frame than the one that underpinned the 2015 agreement, US officials told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

The officials said that administration officials concluded late last year that Iran’s nuclear program had advanced too far to re-create the roughly 12-month so-called “breakout period” of the 2015 agreement.

Despite the change, the US is pushing ahead with talks. A revised deal needs to be reached soon, the officials said, to leave the US and its allies with enough time to respond to an Iranian nuclear buildup.

A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the details of US breakout assessments and said the administration is confident a deal “would address our urgent nonproliferation concerns.”

“As we have said, we have only a few weeks to conclude an understanding, after which the pace of Iran’s nuclear advances will make return to the JCPOA impossible,” the spokesperson said, referring to the formal name of the deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

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

However, it has held several rounds of indirect talks with the US on reviving the deal. The talks are being mediated by the remaining five countries that are party to the deal.

Last week, negotiators from the three European countries involved in the negotiations said the talks are reaching their final stage and now require political input.

Earlier this week, a senior US State Department official said that the nuclear talks are entering the "final stretch".

The official added that all sides will have to make “tough political decisions”.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian last week signaled a willingness by Iran to engage directly with the US in discussions over the deal if necessary to reach a satisfactory agreement.

A State Department spokesperson later said the US is prepared to hold direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program.

"We are prepared to meet directly," the spokesperson said, adding, "We have long held the position that it would be more productive to engage with Iran directly, on both JCPOA negotiations and other issues.”