Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Iranian President Hassan RouhaniReuters

A report by the New York Times on Wednesday night revealed details of an emerging deal between the United States and Iran regarding the Iranian nuclear program. In recent weeks, reports have been circulating of quiet negotiations between the Biden administration and the Iranian regime regarding the latter's nuclear program, which is advancing at a pace troubling to those in the area.

According to the report, the Americans are aiming to reach an informal, unwritten agreement, which some Iranian officials are calling a “political cease-fire,” which would prevent a further escalation.

The new deal — which two Israeli officials called “imminent” — would reportedly stipulate that Iran would not enrich uranium beyond its current production level of 60 percent purity. That is close to but short of the 90 percent purity needed to fashion a nuclear weapon, a level that the United States has warned would force a severe response.

Iran would also halt lethal attacks on American contractors in Syria and Iraq by its proxies in the region, expand its cooperation with international nuclear inspectors, and refrain from selling ballistic missiles to Russia, Iranian officials said.

In return, Iran demands the US avoid tightening sanctions, not seize oil-bearing foreign tankers, as it most recently did in April, and not seek new punitive resolutions at the United Nations or the International Atomic Energy Agency against Iran for its nuclear activity.

Iran also expects the US to unfreeze billions of dollars in Iranian assets, whose use would be limited to humanitarian purposes, in exchange for the release of three Iranian American prisoners whom the US calls wrongfully detained. US officials have not confirmed such a linkage between the prisoners and the money, nor any connection between prisoners and nuclear matters.

The broad outlines of the talks were confirmed by three senior Israeli officials, an Iranian official, and a US official. American officials would not discuss efforts to win the release of prisoners in detail beyond calling that an urgent US priority.

“None of this is aimed at reaching a groundbreaking agreement,” Ali Vaez, the Iran director for the International Crisis Group, a conflict prevention organization, told the New York Times. Instead, he said, the goal is to “put a lid on any activity that basically crosses a red line or puts either party in a position to retaliate in a way that destabilizes the status quo.”

In the meantime, Israel continues to make clear that it will not accept nor be obliged to any foreign agreement with Iran. On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participated in a session of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and stated: "Of course, this is being challenged by the rise of a new power in the region, which has completely replaced the Arab world in hostility to Israel and aspires to our destruction, and this is Iran. Over 90% of our security problems stem from Iran and its proxies, and our policy aims to increase the circle of peace to stop Iran and its proxies.

Our position is clear: No agreement with Iran will be binding on Israel, which will continue to do everything to defend itself. Our opposition to a return to the original agreement, I think it is working, but there are still differences of outlook, and we do not hide them, also about smaller agreements. We enunciate our policy clearly, both openly and in closed rooms."