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A Return to JCPOA Imperiled but Possible


A missile is launched in a drill in Iran. (File)

President Joe Biden has pledged to ensure the Iranian regime will never acquire a nuclear weapon. Over the past year the United States has engaged in indirect negotiations with Iran on a mutual return to full implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

A Return to the JCPOA Imperiled But Possible
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President Joe Biden has pledged to ensure the Iranian regime will never acquire a nuclear weapon.

In support of that goal, over the past year the United States has engaged in indirect negotiations with Iran on a mutual return to full implementation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The JCPOA, as it is called, strictly limited Iran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. In 2018, however, then U.S. President Donald Trump announced the U.S. exit from the JCPOA; since then, Iran has expanded its nuclear activities beyond the deal’s limits, including by expanding its uranium enrichment capacity, increasing its stockpile of nuclear fuel, developing and deploying advanced centrifuges, and limiting International Atomic Energy Agency verification and monitoring of JCPOA commitments.

Although indirect talks between the United States and Iran have stalled for several months, much of the work on a mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA has already been done. “We are prepared to immediately conclude and implement the deal we negotiated in Vienna, the deal that has been on the table for a number of months now,” said State Department Spokesperson Ned Price. “But for that to happen, Tehran needs to decide to drop demands that go beyond the scope of the JCPOA.”

Spokesperson Price said, “Iran has advanced its nuclear program in ways that are profoundly dangerous and profoundly corrosive to the global nonproliferation regime. . . .That is why we continue to pursue a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA. . .We will continue…for as long as doing so is in our national interest. And right now, a mutual return to the JCPOA would convey nonproliferation benefits that we don’t have at the present moment.”

But for the deal to come to fruition, Mr. Price emphasized, Iran must drop issues extraneous to the JCPOA.

“We have made very clear where we are,” said Spokesperson Price. “We believe that if Iran makes this political decision, we’ll be in a position to pursue a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA very swiftly. If Iran does not do that, it will further imperil the odds that we will ever be able to reach a mutual return.”

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