“Gaps remain”: US reacts to the latest draft of the nuclear agreement with Iran
The United States is not yet satisfied with the European Union’s self-declared final blueprint for a revived nuclear deal with Iran.
“There are still gaps. We’re not there yet,” John Kirby, the National Security Council’s strategic communications coordinator, told reporters on Wednesday.
The US sent its response to the European Union on Wednesday after studying Iran’s written proposal for several days.
More than a week since the US received Iran’s comments on the EU’s final proposal, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on Wednesday: “Our review of these comments is now complete. We responded to the EU today.”
After months of indirect talks between the US and Iran mediated by the EU, the State Department declined to comment on the next steps or a timeframe.
Iran’s foreign ministry on Wednesday confirmed receipt of the US response and said it had begun a “detailed review”.
Without getting specific, Kirby said, “Iran has acceded to some concessions and that has allowed us to get to where we are in the process and we’re closer to it now than we were a few weeks ago.”
Kirby also said Iran must answer questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations’ nuclear regulator. “Our position on this will not change.”
“The IAEA has detected (uranium) particles and now needs information on where they came from,” he added.
President Biden vowed to revive the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an international agreement under which Iran paused its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of international sanctions. The US withdrew from the deal under President Trump, who argued that it was not tough enough on Iran over its destabilizing actions in the Middle East, which were not addressed in the JCPOA.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid told foreign reporters on Wednesday that the current deal on the table is “bad” and “does not live up to the standards set by President Biden himself: to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state.”
Lapid complained that “the Iranians are making demands again” even though the EU had already finalized its draft deal. Now that draft seems less definitive, he suggested – “negotiators are ready to make concessions again.”
“Western countries are drawing a red line, Iranians are ignoring them, and the red line is moving,” Lapid said. “If the Iranians didn’t ‘take’ it, then why didn’t the world ‘abandon’ it?”
He reiterated that Israel is not a party to the deal and can continue to act freely against Iran to prevent it from developing a bomb. Israel has long argued that the JCPOA, the nuclear deal struck in 2015 between the Obama administration, Western allies and partners, and Iran, will not prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon in the long term.
Israel’s National Security Advisor Eyal Hulata met his US counterpart Jake Sullivan at the White House on Tuesday, ahead of a meeting with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman on Wednesday.
Lapid also claimed that the deal currently on the table “would bring Iran $100 billion a year” and warned the Islamic Republic of using the funds to promote stability in the Middle East through activities by its Revolutionary Guards and the Islamic Republic Iran-backed militia continued to undermine groups across the region.
US Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmedthat the US military conducted precision airstrikes on facilities used by groups affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps in Deir Ezzor, Syria, in response to an August 15 attack on US personnel “by Iran-backed groups.”
The Undersecretary for Defense Policy, Dr. Colin Kahl told reporters on Wednesday, “Whether or not the JCPOA is reborn actually has nothing to do with our willingness and determination to defend ourselves.” Considering Tuesday’s US airstrikes againstKahl added: “I think the strike last night was a pretty clear message to the Iranians that these things are going in different ways.”
Margaret Brennan and Eleanor Watson contributed reporting.