The recently released Annual Threat Assessment by the U.S. Intelligence Community predicts that “Iran will remain a regional menace with broader malign influence activities.”
The report notes that U.S. personnel, partners and interests are at risk from the Iranian regime’s support for terrorist proxies and the rogue Syrian regime, as well as from Iran’s growing willingness to engage in aggressive cyber-attacks. In addition, Iran continues to work on its ballistic missile program and has resumed certain nuclear activities beyond the limits set by the Iran nuclear deal. The United States withdrew from the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, in 2018, under the previous administration.
For the past year, the United States has been in indirect negotiations with Iran over a mutual return to full implementation of the JCPOA. As State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said, “Every challenge that we face and would face from Iran – whether that is its support for proxies, its support for terrorist groups, its ballistic missile program -- would be all the more difficult to confront if Iran were in the possession of a nuclear weapon. The first thing we want to do is put Iran’s nuclear program back in a box, to take that challenge off the table.”
There has been significant progress in the nuclear negotiations, but they have paused in recent weeks over a number of unresolved issues. At a press conference, Spokesperson Price said the United States is prepared for a return to full JCPOA implementation. “We are also prepared for broader diplomatic efforts to resolve issues outside of the JCPOA,” he declared. “If [the Iranians] do not want to use these talks to resolve other bilateral issues, then we are confident we can very quickly reach an understanding on the JCPOA and begin to reimplement the deal itself. It is Iran that needs to make this decision.”
Spokesperson Price emphasized that the United States is equally prepared “for scenarios in which there is a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA and scenarios in which there is not a mutual return…We would,” he said, “greatly prefer the former: to have the JCPOA and the verifiable, permanent limits that it would again impose on Iran’s nuclear program. Whether we are able to get there or not, that is a question for Iran.”