“They have yet to agree to the steps that they would have to take to come back into commitment” with the JCPOA, the official said, in reference to the 2015 nuclear deal signed under the Obama administration.
The official said talks had been constructive so far but also voiced some skepticism over whether the US would still be “faced with unrealistic demands by Iran” of lifting certain sanctions and “unrealistic commitments by them [Iran].”
“The gaps are there,” the official said, adding that there was a possibility to reach a deal if Iran expressed “seriousness” in doing so.
The fourth round of talks will take place this week and into the weekend, where Special Envoy Rob Malley will head the US delegation.
As for the previous three rounds of talks, they have helped “crystalize” what the US and Iran must do for a return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA.
“Again, we think that it’s doable, because it’s not rocket science; it’s not inventing a new deal. It’s reviving one that has been undermined over the last several years,” the State Department official said.
Asked if a deal was possible before the Iranian elections next month, the official said it was. “Is it likely? Only time will tell … because a political decision needs to be made in Iran,” he said.
Last weekend, Iranian officials leaked reports to media outlets that a prisoner exchange had been reached where the US would unfreeze billions of dollars of frozen assets and release Iranian prisoners in return for US hostages held in Iran. On Thursday, the US official slammed what he said were false reports and said Iranian officials took part in “unspeakable cruelty” by doing so.
In an interview with MSNBC in Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed the official’s remarks on the nuclear deal talks. “What we don’t know is whether Iran is actually prepared to make the decisions necessary to return to full compliance with the nuclear agreement. They unfortunately have continued to take steps that are restarting dangerous parts of their program that the nuclear agreement stopped, and the jury is out on whether they’re prepared to do what’s necessary,” Blinken said.