Blinken says time getting 'very short' to return to Iran nuclear deal

Remarks come as US envoy Robert Malley says only weeks remain to salvage 2015 agreement

Blinken on salvaging Iran nuclear deal: time is 'getting very, very, very short'

Blinken on salvaging Iran nuclear deal: time is 'getting very, very, very short'
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday said the window is rapidly closing to save the nuclear deal with Iran and that Washington is exploring other options.

Speaking from the State Department, Mr Blinken said Iran’s nuclear advances and breaches of the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), are making it “increasingly problematic” to return to the 2015 agreement.

“It is getting very, very, very short. Being able to recover the full benefits of the JCPOA, by returning to compliance with it, is getting increasingly problematic by the advances that Iran makes every single day in its nuclear programme,” Mr Blinken said.

He blamed the former administration of Donald Trump for “the worst decisions made in American foreign policy in the last decade” by withdrawing from the deal in 2018.

“In getting out of that agreement, we were promised that it would be replaced by a stronger one … [and that] maximum pressure being exerted against Iran will curb its malicious activities throughout the region. Instead, of course, we've seen just the opposite,” he said.

“Iran has broken loose from the constraints imposed on it by the JCPOA” and “continues to act aggressively in country after country in the region”, Mr Blinken added.

The US chief diplomat said if the negotiations in Vienna fail to curtail Iran’s nuclear programme, then Washington and its allies will look at alternatives.

“We're actively looking at alternatives and options and what we will not endure is Iran playing for time at the negotiating table by not engaging in good faith.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Robert Malley, the US special envoy for Iran, set the time frame to salvage the deal at mere “weeks".

If the Iranians "continue at their current pace, we have some weeks left but not much more than that, at which point, I think, the conclusion will be that there’s no deal to be revived,” Mr Malley said on CNN's Connect the World with Becky Anderson.

He voiced the suspicion that Iran’s plan is “to try to build more leverage by expanding their nuclear programme and hoping to use that leverage to get a better deal”.

Mr Malley said if negotiations fail in Vienna in the coming weeks, it could spark a worsening crisis.

“At some point, we will have to conclude that the JCPOA is no more and we'd have to negotiate a wholly different deal … we’d go through a period of escalating crisis.”

Updated: December 21, 2021, 9:02 PM