© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag flies in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters before the start of the Board of Governors meeting in Vienna, Austria on March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Lizzie Nessner
Written by Arshad Muhammad, John Irish and Parisa Hafezi
WASHINGTON/PARIS (Reuters) – US, Israeli and European officials took a hard line on Iran on Wednesday, with US officials saying they would consider all options if Tehran failed to revive the 2015 nuclear deal and Israel said it reserves the right to act.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has so far refused to resume indirect talks with the United States in Vienna on the two sides to return to compliance with the agreement, under which Iran curbed its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
“We will consider every option to deal with the challenge posed by Iran,” US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said at a joint news conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed.
“If the Iranians don’t think the world is serious about stopping them, they will rush toward the bomb,” Lapid said. “Israel reserves the right to act at any moment and in any way.” Israel has previously bombed nuclear sites in Iraq and Syria.
US officials stressed that Washington still favors the United States, which abandoned the nuclear deal in 2018 during the Trump administration, and Iran, which began violating its nuclear limits about a year later, to resume compliance.
Iran concluded the 2015 agreement with Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. The last round of the Vienna talks was held in June. Iran has not set a new date, except to say it will resume “soon”.
Iran has long denied any ambition to acquire nuclear weapons.
A Western diplomat said on Wednesday he believed the closest talks could take place in late October if that happened.
The European Union visits Tehran
The European Union’s coordinator for Iran, Enrique Mora, plans to visit Tehran on Thursday, diplomats from Britain, France and Germany, a group known as the E3, said the trip came at a critical time as Iran continues to develop its nuclear programme.
“The nuclear situation has continually and dangerously worsened,” said an E3 diplomat, referring to Iran’s acceleration of uranium enrichment for higher fissile purity, a potential route to a nuclear bomb.
The diplomat added: “From the point of view of the three countries, this is not ‘business as usual’ but a visit in the context of a deep crisis in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”
While officials have made similar previous statements, the combined comments suggest a more coercive rhetorical stance toward Tehran if it refuses to resume compliance with the agreement called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Earlier, the US special envoy for Iran, Rob Malley, said Washington was ready to consider “all options” if Iran was not ready to return to the 2015 agreement, which was negotiated under President Barack Obama and then Vice President Joe Biden, who is now president United State.
The phrase “all options” usually implies the possibility – however remote – of military action.
However, some analysts read the comments less as a tougher stance on Iran and more as a reflection of uncertainty over whether the Raisi government would return to talks and, even if it did, whether it would agree to revive the deal.
The foreign ministry said Mali would travel to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia from Oct. 15-21 to coordinate with Gulf allies.
“We will be ready to adapt to a different reality in which we have to deal with all options to address Iran’s nuclear program if it is not ready to return to restrictions,” Malley said in a virtual appearance at a Washington think tank.
“There is a high possibility that Iran will choose a different path, and we need to coordinate with Israel and other partners in the region,” he added.
“I will be traveling to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar in just a few days to talk about efforts to get back into the (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and what options we have to get Iran’s nuclear program under control if we can’t achieve that goal.”