Iran nuclear deal

Biden administration defends potential Iran nuclear deal as Israel hits out

A senior US official said that “thousands” of advanced centrifuges Iran is using to enrich today would be stopped and removed, including all of the centrifuges enriching at the fortified underground facility at Fordow.

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Iran would be prohibited from enriching uranium above 3.67 percent and stockpiling more than 300 kilograms until 2031 under a new nuclear deal, a senior US official said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Israel appealed to the Biden administration to refrain from signing an agreement with Tehran.

The deal would deny Tehran the material needed for a bomb, the US official said in a statement to Al Arabiya English. “Iran would need to get rid of or render unusable the 20 and 60 percent-enriched uranium that it is stockpiling today,” the official said.

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After more than a year of indirect talks and stalling mechanisms by Iran, the EU proposed a final text to Iran and the US at the start of this month, asking for a response within a few weeks.

Despite the EU saying there was no more room for negotiations, Tehran made several remarks and sent back its response to the EU, which in turn passed along the comments to the US.

Washington has yet to respond.

“Gaps still remain, but should we reach an agreement to return to the deal, Iran would have to take many significant steps to dismantle its nuclear program,” the administration official said on Tuesday.

The official said that “thousands” of advanced centrifuges Iran is using to enrich today would be stopped and removed, including all of the centrifuges enriching at the fortified underground facility at Fordow. “Strict limits on Iranian enrichment would mean that even if Iran left the deal to pursue a nuclear weapon, it would take at least six months to do so,” the official claimed.

Further defending a potential deal, which has been criticized by both Democrats and Republicans at home, the official said any Iranian pathway to a “plutonium-based nuclear weapon” would also be blocked. The official pointed to what would be the prohibition on reprocessing and redesigning a reactor that could be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

The Biden administration has repeatedly stated its belief that reviving the 2015 nuclear deal would be the best way to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, something which US officials have said was “weeks away” for several months now. But critics of the administration’s approach to

Iran have now said the deal will be different than the original 2015 pact.

On Tuesday, the senior US official suggested that under the new deal Iran would be bound by nuclear constraints as well as allow the UN nuclear watchdog to be able to implement “the most comprehensive inspections regime ever negotiated.”

‘Iran made concessions,’ not us

The US official pushed back on the narrative pushed by Tehran that Washington had made several concessions to reach a new deal.

Last week, London-based Iran International published a list of reported concessions the Biden administration had agreed to in a bid to get Iran to come back into full compliance with the deal. The outlet said these included the removal of sanctions on 17 banks, the immediate release of $7 billion worth of Iranian assets frozen in South Korea and the annulment of multiple Executive Orders signed by former US President Donald Trump.

“To be clear: reports that we have accepted or are considering new concessions to Iran as part of reentering the 2015 nuclear deal are categorically false,” the official said on Tuesday. “It is Iran that has made concessions on critical issues. Most notably, the President has been firm and consistent that he will not lift the terrorism designation of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps. Iran’s demand that we do so has been removed from the latest versions of the text.”

But Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett quickly called on the Biden administration not to sign a deal with Iran, “even now at this last minute.

Bennett took to Twitter to voice Israel’s opposition to the deal, claiming the deal would send “approximately a quarter of a trillion dollars to the Iranian terror administration’s pocket and to its regional proxies.”

The former Israeli premier said his country was able to convince the White House not to give in to Iranian demands over the last year. “Israel is not committed to any of the restrictions stemming from the agreement and will utilize all available tools to prevent the Iranian nuclear program from advancing,” he tweeted.

Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), said the Biden administration felt like they were behind the message curve amid the deluge of Iranian leaks on concessions Tehran reportedly won.

“The US is focusing on what it did not cave on, what Iranians reportedly retracted on, but not acknowledging that they are reentering an agreement that has already started to expire,” Brodsky told Al Arabiya English. He also pointed to the lack of bipartisan support, the opposition of Washington’s closest ally in the region, and the absence of a clear pathway forward on deterring Iran as “ingredients for unstable agreements.”

Brodsky said the US officials that were speaking out about potential benefits in the deal were “circulating recycled talking points from 2015” as part of their case to revive the JCPOA. “No mention of the sunset clock already ticking for years -- while, according to press reports, Iran is receiving more sanctions relief in exchange for a shorter and weaker nuclear deal.”

Since beginning indirect talks with Iran over 500 days ago, US officials said they were seeking a “longer, stronger” deal.

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