Biden administration is ready to talk with Iran about a return to the nuclear deal


WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Biden administration said it is ready to open talks with Iran toward returning to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.

“If Iran comes back into strict compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA, the United States will do the same and is prepared to engage in discussions with Iran toward that end,” said the statement issued Thursday by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his three counterparts in Germany, France and Britain.

The formal statement issued after a joint meeting of the top diplomats of the four allies signals that President Joe Biden is prioritizing the return to the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Israel’s government expressed its concern in a brief statement Friday morning.

“Israel remains committed to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons and its position on the nuclear agreement has not changed,” the statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said. “Israel believes that going back to the old agreement will pave Iran’s path to a nuclear arsenal. Israel is in close contact with the United States on this matter.”

Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018, saying it did not do enough to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Iran subsequently began to abrogate parts of the agreement, which trades sanctions relief for a limited rollback of its nuclear capabilities.

Along with Israel’s government, centrist pro-Israel groups and Republicans have expressed concerns about Biden’s plan to return to the deal without renegotiating some of its components, including the length of a period Iran must refrain from high-level uranium enrichment.

The announcement Thursday was likely to stoke concerns among Israelis and on the American right because it appears to propose launching talks without any concessions from Iran. The statement maintains the sequence that Biden has insisted upon — that Iran return to compliance before the United States rejoins the agreement. Iran’s leaders have until now have rejected that sequence.

Iran says it has no plan for a nuclear weapon, but Western intelligence agencies have exposed evidence to the contrary.

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