US officials are highly skeptical that renewed talks over the Iran nuclear deal will yield the desired results and are actively discussing imposing penalties on Tehran as President Joe Biden prepares to meet with key allies on the margins of the G20 to chart a path forward.
Biden and his counterparts from the United Kingdom, Germany, and France will meet in Rome on Saturday just one day after the US imposed new sanctions on Iran related to its drone program and less than a week after Tehran announced it would return to the talks in Vienna following a months-long hiatus.
The fact the new hardline Iranian government has appointed a negotiating team led by opponents of the deal has only increased the sense of pessimism.
Sources in Washington tell WEBICNEWS there is an ongoing debate within the Biden administration about how to proceed and how much to increase the pressure on Iran.
However, they say the US and its allies are now more willing to impose a higher cost on Iran for failing to come to an agreement if Tehran continues to take actions that are inconsistent with the 2015 nuclear deal and bring it closer to developing a nuclear weapon.
The sources wouldn’t detail what those costs might be, but one person familiar with discussions tells WEBICNEWS that Biden will discuss potential options during his G20 meetings with allies and that those costs could be imposed even as the Iran talks are underway.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan, briefing reporters en route to Rome, said that the meeting on the margins of the G20 is an opportunity to “closely coordinate” with the “E3” counterparts “on a joint negotiating position as we work towards a resumption of negotiations” as well as “level set on our understanding of Iran’s progress on the nuclear program since they left the JCPOA,” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The G20 meeting was announced shortly after Tehran said it would formally go back to nuclear talks in Vienna before the end of November, a return that would end a more than four-month long hiatus during which newly elected hardline President Ebrahim Raisi formed a government and then a new nuclear negotiating team.
Sullivan said Thursday that it was “not entirely clear to (him) yet whether the Iranians are prepared to return the talks,” noting that “we have heard positive signals that they are but I think we have to wait and see when and whether they actually show up in the negotiating table.”