Iran-backed attacks on US forces to accelerate nuclear deal will not work: US envoy

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Attacks by Iran-backed militias against US forces abroad will not force Washington to move faster to reach a new deal with Tehran, Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley has said.

Iraqi militias have repeatedly targeted military bases hosting US troops across Iraq, and the number of attacks has escalated since President Joe Biden took office.

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Biden and his administration have said they want to sit down with Iran for talks on the nuclear deal, which former President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018. The original agreement, also known as the JCPOA, was brokered by then-President Barack Obama.

Democrats argue that the deal prevented Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon in exchange for sanctions relief and allowing Tehran access to the global economy, dominated by the US dollar.

But Iran has given Biden the cold shoulder and refused to accept an invitation to sit down for talks. In the meantime, the attacks against US and Coalition forces in Iraq continue.

This will not pressure the US to move quickly, Malley told Voice of America.

Insinuating that Iran was directing the attacks in an effort to pressure the US to act quickly, Malley said, “it’s hard to see how that is going to work.”

Iran has insisted that the US lift all sanctions imposed by the Trump administration before it comes back into compliance with the JCPOA. Biden and the US have said Iran must first come back into compliance.

As for the attacks, Malley said the US would respond “as it has responded and it will continue to respond.”

Last month, Biden ordered an airstrike on Iranian proxies inside Syria to respond to an attack that wounded Americans stationed in Iraq’s Erbil.

Days later, another rocket attack killed an American civilian contractor at Iraq’s Al-Asad airbase.

The US has not retaliated for this attack yet.

“It’s not really helping the climate in the US to have Iranian allies take shots at Americans in Iraq or elsewhere,” Malley said.

Republicans and Democrats are divided, for the most part, over Biden’s Iran policy.

Republicans are lobbying to maintain sanctions on Iran to force a behavior change in the Iranian regime, while Democrats favor lifting sanctions with the belief that Iran will then rein in its proxies and ballistic missile program.

In separate comments made to the BBC Persian, Malley said he understood why Iran was frustrated with the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. He then proposed for a third party to mediate between the US and Iran if the latter did not want direct talks with Washington.

This is another attempt by the US to appease Iran after sending multiple signals to Tehran that it was taking a softer stance than the previous administration.

Days after taking office, Biden revoked the terror designation against Yemen’s Houthis and removed three of its leaders from the Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) list. The administration then signaled that it was willing to release frozen Iranian funds in foreign banks; the State Department has since said the reports were untrue.

The Biden administration has also frozen arms sales to Saud Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Iran’s archrivals in the Middle East.

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