September saw both positive and negative developments in the relationship between the United States and Iran.
On the positive side, the Iranian government released five Americans who had been unlawfully detained in Iran. In return, the United States released five Iranians held in the U.S. and made accessible to Iran, for humanitarian purposes, $6 billion in Iranian funds that had been frozen in South Korea.
On the negative side, the Iranian government informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that it has withdrawn the official designation of several experienced IAEA inspectors. IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi condemned the move, which, he said, severely impacts the IAEA’s ability to conduct its verification activities regarding Iran’s nuclear program. The United States joined France, Germany, and the United Kingdom in a statement denouncing Iran’s lack of cooperation with the IAEA. The statement noted, “This is at a time when the IAEA has serious, longstanding and unresolved questions related to undeclared nuclear materials and activities in Iran that Iran has failed to address for more than four years.”
Speaking to reporters, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Iran’s activities in pursuing a nuclear program are “a profoundly destabilizing element and one that risks the security of countries not only in the region but well beyond it:”
“Which is why we’re determined – President Biden is determined - that Iran never acquire a nuclear weapon.”
Secretary Blinken emphasized that the United States believes diplomacy is the most effective way to accomplish that goal.
“We tried to work indirectly with Iran as well as with European partners and even Russia and China, to see if we could get a return to joint compliance with the Iran nuclear agreement, the so-called JCPOA, but Iran couldn’t or wouldn’t do that. So the problem is very clear, and the problem is Iran.”
Secretary Blinken has said the United States “would welcome any steps that Iran takes to actually de-escalate the growing nuclear threat it poses since the United States got out of the Iran nuclear agreement.” At a recent press briefing, State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller underscored that point. “If Iran really is serious about taking de-escalatory steps,” he declared, “the first thing it could do would be to cooperate with the IAEA.”