Newly appointed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has tasked President Biden’s Iran envoy to form a team made up of people with differing points of view on policy toward Iran, a State Department official said Wednesday.
Reports earlier in the day quoted sources close to the Biden administration as saying that Blinken had called on Robert Malley to include individuals with “more hawkish” stances on Iran.
Asked about these reports, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said Blinken wanted a wide range of views in the State Department, “across the board.”
“That is no different” when it comes to the Iran team, Price told reporters in Washington.
Price added that the top US diplomat wanted “to ensure that our thinking is never dominated” by one group.
During the negotiations carried out by the Obama administration with Iranian officials, the US team was led and made up of individuals considered to have taken a soft stance on Iran.
The team, led by then-Secretary of State John Kerry, also did not include regional partners and allies during the talks. The leading powers in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel, were sidelined during the negotiations that led to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed in 2015.
Critics were skeptical that an incoming Biden administration would take a soft stance toward Tehran after former President Donald Trump withdrew from the JCPOA and began an aggressive economic sanctions regime on the Islamic Republic.
However, Biden and other senior US officials have remained adamant that the US will not move toward re-entering the JCPOA until, and if, Iran returns to full compliance first.
Price doubled down on this stance Wednesday, saying that Iran had distanced itself from the JCPOA “in very proficient ways.”
At the current stage, the US is discussing potential steps with allies and partners before moving ahead.
But Price was quick to point out that reaching a new deal would not occur soon.