US State Department Spokesman Ned Price
US State Department said Monday that a nuclear deal with Iran “is neither imminent nor is it certain”, as talks in Vienna have paused for more than ten days.
The department’s spokesman Ned Price in his daily briefing said, “there has been significant progress in recent weeks, but I want to be clear that an agreement is neither imminent nor is it certain.”
The statement came as National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan slammed Iran’s support for Yemen’s Houthis as the rebel force launched multiple attacks against Saudi Arabia over the weekend. Sullivan repeated US accusations that Tehran is supplying missiles and drones to the Houthis, violating a United Nations arms embargo.
It is clear that one major remaining issue in the Vienna talks is Iran’s demand to remove sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on the Revolutionary Guard, IRGC. Multiple reports have indicated the Biden Administration is weighing its options regarding the Iranian demand.
Opposition both in the United States and abroad has been strong against taking such a step. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have expressed concern over the possibility of removing the IRGC from the US Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list.
Israel’s prime minister and foreign minister forcefully and publicly opposed the notion in a statement on March 18, while the United Arab Emirates is reportedly “shocked” at the notion.
The Jerusalem Post reported that some in Abu Dhabi “are in great shock,” and their views on the issue are similar to Israel’s.
Media reports have said that the Biden administration has an option to remove the FTO designation in exchange for a promise by Tehran not to use the IRGC and its proxy forces in the region to harm US interests. Both Israel and its Arab friends in the region view a possible reliance on Tehran’s promises as a naïve and dangerous notion.
It is not clear when and if the Vienna talks will resume. Price on Monday said he can offer no information and urged Tehran to free “innocent Americans and others” held in Iran, which is Washington’s “top priority.”
Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE have had difficulties in their dealings with Washington, which last year took steps distancing itself from Persian Gulf allies. The Biden team removed the Houthis from its terror designation and restricted weapons sales to the Saudi coalition fighting in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE which had close relations with the Trump administration have not responded to Biden’s calls for more oil supplies in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and have taken a neutral posture toward Moscow.
Price tired to minimize disagreements with the UAE when asked about the visit of Syrian president Bashar al Assad to the Emirates this week, which the administration has criticized.
Our Emirati partners, they are a partner of ours, and they will continue to be and are an important partner of the United States. We share a number of interests, including the security interests, our shared interest in bringing to a close this conflict in Yemen. We have a shared interest in terms of regional stability, in terms of pushing back on Iran, in terms of helping our Emirati partners defend themselves against the attacks that have emanated from Yemen, from the Houthis. And of course, we are committed to all of that,” the spokesman said.