Pundits urge return to Iran nuclear deal as prospects look bleak

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A group of 40 former government officials and leading non-proliferation experts has urged President Biden to successfully conclude negotiations on a return to the Iran nuclear deal, warning that Tehran is a week or two away from producing enough weapons-grade uranium to launch a bomb to fuel.

In a statement to be released on Thursday, the experts said a failure to reverse policies by the Trump administration, which withdrew from the deal between world powers and Iran in 2018, would be “irresponsible” and “would risk… increase that Iran becomes a regime nuclear-weapon state on the cusp.”

There is growing pessimism from all sides in the negotiations that a new deal can be reached to resume the 2015 deal under which Iran severely curtailed its nuclear program and submitted to tough international scrutiny in exchange for the lifting of US and international sanctions has undergone.

After withdrawing from the deal in 2018, President Donald Trump reinstated sanctions and imposed more, and Iran increased its uranium enrichment well beyond agreed limits. Biden vowed to return to the deal, and negotiations began last April.

After talks last year in which Iran and the United States negotiated indirectly through the European parties to the deal, the two sides have agreed on draft text but have been unable to fill a final loophole unrelated to the deal Deals have to do with nuclear deals themselves. Iran has revived an early demand that the United States remove its foreign terrorist designation against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a concession that Biden’s advisers say would be politically untenable.

Although negotiations have not officially been called off, they have been suspended since last month while European Union officials who have been coordinating the talks have tried unsuccessfully to find a compromise.

Those efforts have focused on persuading the United States to offer a partial annulment of the IRGC appointment and urging Tehran to retaliate with concessions in areas the US is concerned about outside the nuclear deal‘s parameters, including support for the Iran for foreign proxy militias and its ballistic missile program.

Virtually all Republican lawmakers and many Democrats have opposed a deal with Iran, a disapproval that has escalated with reports that the administration was considering delisting the IRGC as a terrorist. There is broad agreement within the government on the dangers of not renewing the deal, but considerable disagreement as to whether the nuclear risk outweighs the political minefield.

Proponents of even considering removing the designation argue that doing so would be largely symbolic because the IRGC would remain under many other sanctions.

The experts’ statement makes no direct mention of the terrorist designation, but notes that “some in Congress are threatening to ‘block’ implementation of steps needed to bring Iran back below the nuclear limits set by the JCPOA” or bring the joint comprehensive plan of action. as the deal is officially known.

It is argued that Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign to sanction Iran, which he said aimed to secure a “better” or “more comprehensive deal,” “not only failed to deliver the results promised; it also opened the way for Iran to take steps to exceed the JCPOA’s nuclear limits and accelerate its capacity to produce bomb-grade nuclear materials.”

As a result, it states: “It is now estimated that the time it would take Iran to produce a significant quantity (25 kg) of bomb-grade uranium has fallen from more than a year under the JCPOA to around a week or two today is .”

Signers of the declaration include current and former officials of the Bulletin of the Atomic Sciences, the Arms Control Association, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Plowshares Fund, as well as former US and European diplomats and academic experts.

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