A top adviser to the Biden administration on the Middle East has said a revival of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is “highly unlikely” and that the White House will revisit sanctions to isolate the mullah-led regime, according to a report.
Brett McGurk, the National Security Council’s coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, told a group of think tank experts last week that negotiations to rekindle the Obama-era pact are falling apart because Iran cannot make a decision, Axios reported on Wednesday.
According to McGurk, Iran wants the US “to add something to the pot” to give those in the Tehran government who want a deal some leverage in their attempts to persuade Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but “we are not going to do that.”
In the absence of a deal, McGurk said, the administration will isolate Iran with a combination of sanctions and diplomatic pressure “but not needlessly escalate the situation.” He added that force would be used only as a last resort.
McGurk also claimed that any disagreements with Israel over the pact aren’t about the possibility of military action, but about whether the Biden administration should try to restore the original 2015 agreement or push for something “longer and stronger.”
Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal — negotiated by the US, Iran and five other world powers — in 2018 and immediately slapped economic sanctions on Tehran, but President Biden raised the idea of renegotiating the pact when he assumed office in January 2021.
Indirect talks between the US and Iran stalled last month and no new negotiations are planned.
During a visit to Israel earlier this month, Biden encouraged Iran to take the deal on offer or face serious consequences.
“We mean what we say. They have an opportunity to accept, this agreement has been laid down,” the president said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Yair Lapid. “If they don’t, we have made it absolutely clear: We will not — let me say it again — we will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”
Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said this week that after more than a year of talks, both sides have reached “the best possible deal that I, as facilitator of the negotiations, see as feasible.”
Without a pact, Borrell wrote in the Financial Times, the world could face a nuclear crisis.
“If the deal is rejected, we risk a dangerous nuclear crisis, set against the prospect of increased isolation for Iran and its people,” he contended. “It is our joint responsibility to conclude the deal.”
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said on Tuesday that it retains the right to act independently against Iran to prevent a nuclear threat.
“Iran is a global problem,” Gantz said, according to the Times of Israel. “It is not just Israel’s private problem.”