Blinken says US is prepared to turn to ‘other options’ if nuclear diplomacy with Iran fails

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that if diplomatic talks with Iran fail, the United States “is prepared to turn to other options” to prevent the country from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

He discussed what the US would do if Tehran fails to return to international talks during meetings in Washington with his counterparts from Israel and the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.

The Biden administration says it is willing to return to the diplomatic table any day and resume talks in Vienna which have been stalled for more than three months. The pause began after the new hardline Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi came into office.

“We continue to believe that diplomacy is the most effective way to do that, but it takes two to engage in diplomacy, and we have not seen from Iran a willingness to do that at this point,” Blinken said at a joint press conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan at the State Department before their meetings.

Blinken emphasized that the window for diplomacy with Tehran is closing “because Iran has been using this time to advance its nuclear program in a variety of ways.”

“I’m not going to put a specific date on it, but with every passing day and Iran’s refusal to engage in good faith, the runway gets shortened,” Blinken said.

With the window for a diplomatic opportunity growing more narrow, the Biden administration is holding discussions about contingency options to contain Iran’s nuclear program with partners and allies.

US Iran envoy traveling to Middle East for talks

US Special Envoy to Iran Robert Malley will visit the Middle East in the coming days to continue conversations with counterparts in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, he said earlier on Wednesday

“We have to prepare for a world, which we’re doing now in consultation with our partners from the region — a world where Iran doesn’t have constraints on its nuclear program. And we have to consider options to dealing with that, which is what we are doing, even as we hope that we can get back to the deal,” Malley said during an event at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Blinken reiterated the US position that “that Iran cannot be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon,” when asked if a military option would be on the table if diplomacy is unsuccessful.

Lapid added, “By saying ‘other options,’ I think everybody understands here, in Israel, in the Emirates and in Tehran what is it that we mean.”

During a speech before the United Nations General Assembly last month, Raisi insisted that Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons, that the US is at fault for leaving the nuclear deal, and emphasized that the US has to meet its obligations under the deal first, by lifting sanctions.

Raisi has also said that Iranian officials are ready to restart Iran deal talks soon. Malley said Iran’s actions indicate that they may not be ready to come back into compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, which the US abandoned under President Donald Trump.

“Every day where they are not coming back to the table, every day where they’re making statements about how little was achieved in Vienna, which is what the current team is saying, is telling us that this is a team that may not in fact be prepared to come back into what we would consider, what the rest of the P5+1 would consider, full mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA,” Malley said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the formal name for the deal.

The US is prepared for the possibility of extended talks that don’t solely focus on the Iran deal, Malley said. But he emphasized that the US would only engage in those discussions if Iran is willing to engage in discussions that are not one-sided.

“If Iran does comes back to the table, whenever they come back to the seventh round, and put on the table issues that clearly go beyond the confines of the JCPOA, and that’s sort of what we’re hearing, I mean we may be wrong, but that’s what we’re hearing, then we’re prepared to have a negotiation about a different kind of deal,” Malley said. “A deal that would address more issues than the JCPOA. But Iran is gonna have to make a choice and it can’t have it both ways. It can’t say that the US has to give more than the JCPOA and Iran is going to give only what the JCPOA requires, or perhaps even less.”

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