Francesco FONTEMAGGI, Camille CAMDESSUS
Thu, February 10, 2022, 2:25 PM·4 min read
US President Joe Biden is in a tough spot as the Iran nuclear talks resume in Vienna, gambling on a successful outcome but facing growing bipartisan concern that even if a deal is reached it may be insufficient to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.
The subject has been somewhat on mute in Washington after 10 months of indirect talks failed to achieve the breakthrough Biden hoped for and a revival of the 2015 nuclear deal repudiated by Donald Trump.
But the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, designed to prevent Iran from building an atomic bomb, has taken on renewed urgency as Tehran improves its capabilities and the end of the talks approach.
Either the JCPOA is resurrected over the next few weeks or the Biden administration is faced with a diplomatic failure and leap into the unknown.
Trump pulled the United States out of the deal, which was negotiated by the Obama administration, in 2018 and reimposed sanctions on Iran.
Supporters and opponents of the agreement have been making their voices heard in Washington in recent days and US negotiator Rob Malley gave a closed-door briefing to the Senate on Wednesday.
“Sobering and shocking,” was the summary provided by Democratic Senator Chris Murphy after a briefing that confirmed what experts have been saying — that Iran could be just weeks away from having enough fissile material to make an atomic weapon.
This is known as “breakout time” and even if several other steps are required to actually build a bomb, it is a crucial phase.
Murphy, like most Democrats, supports the Biden administration’s attempts to revive the JCPOA and believes Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran was counterproductive.
Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is among the Democrats who are more skeptical.
“I think we’re at a critical moment, a serious moment and we’ll see which way it turns,” Menendez told AFP after the briefing. “But I certainly walked away with a sense of the difficulties of the moment we are in.”