Briefing With Senior State Department Official On the Seventh Round of the JCPOA Talks (Excerpts)

December 4, 2021

Weapon Program: 

  • Nuclear

MODERATOR:  Good morning, everyone, and thanks very much for joining us, and especially so on a Saturday morning.  We thought it important to have a timely opportunity to hear – for you to hear from a senior State Department official who has recently returned from Vienna, where the seventh round of talks in the – with our P5+1 in the JCPOA context recently concluded.  For your awareness only, the senior State Department official today is [Senior State Department Official].  This call is on background, so you can refer to what we hear from [Senior State Department Official] as emanating from a senior State Department Official, and this call is embargoed until the conclusion of the call.

So with that, I’ll turn it over to our senior State Department official, and then we’ll take your questions.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL:  Hi, and thank you.  Thank you, [Moderator].  So, as you all know, we’ve been waiting patiently for five and a half months.  The Iranian Government said that it needed time to get ready to resume the talks on a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA, and I think what we’ve seen over the last week or so is what getting ready meant for them.  And more importantly, not only did we see it, I think our partners and others – Russia, China, others – have seen – have witnessed what Iran meant by getting ready.

It meant continuing to accelerate their nuclear program in particularly provocative ways, and their latest provocation as reported by the IAEA only on Wednesday, i.e. while we were still in the middle of talks, was to prepare for the doubling of their production capacity of 20 percent enriched uranium at Fordow.  What getting ready meant was to continue to stonewall the IAEA despite efforts – again, by all of the P5+1 – constructive efforts to find a way forward between Director General Grossi and Iran.

And, of course, most importantly or most visibly while we were in Vienna, what getting ready meant was to come with proposals that walked back anything – any of the compromises that Iran had floated during the sixth round of talks, pocket all of the compromises that others and the U.S. in particular had made, and then ask for more; in other words, not come back with a serious proposal about how we could resume mutual compliance with the JCPOA, but raising issues that go beyond the JCPOA, and on their side not being prepared to take the steps that, again, I think not just the U.S., not just the U.S. and E3, but all of the P5+1 thought was a reasonable basis to resume talks.  And so I think you’ve heard from other of our colleagues – as I said, not just the Europeans, but the Russians and Chinese – some impatience that after all this time what Iran came back with was to walk back anything that they had floated and to assume that they could pocket all of the compromises that others had made.

Iran’s justification for continuing its nuclear advances has been that they will continue them as long as the United States is not back in compliance, which was – is a justification that doesn’t hold water when the U.S. has said and the world has witnessed that we are prepared to come back into compliance if Iran agrees to reasonable agreement for a mutual return, which they have not done.  And so they’re the reason why there’s not a return, mutual return to compliance, and therefore that can’t serve as a justification for them continuing to accelerate their nuclear steps.

Secretary Blinken has said we can’t accept a situation in which Iran accelerates its nuclear program and slow-walks its nuclear diplomacy.  That’s not a situation with which we or others can live.  So – and I – in terms of the next steps, I think what’s clear is that – again, and we’ve heard this not just from our traditional partners, we’ve heard this from the Russians, we’ve heard this from the Chinese, we certainly have heard it from the GCC countries when a U.S. delegation visited there not long ago – the world is prepared to support a mutual return to compliance by both sides.  The world is prepared even to engage economically with Iran and diplomatically with Iran.  But for that, Iran has to show seriousness at the table and be prepared to come back in short order in compliance with the deal, as the U.S. has said that it is prepared to do and as President Biden has said he prepared to do and to stay in compliance with the deal as long as Iran is.

So we are still – that is still our goal, that is still our mindset, and that’s what we’re prepared to return to Vienna to do.  We don’t know when the EU coordinator will reconvene talks, but frankly, the date of those talks, the date of that resumption matters far less to us than whether Iran will come back with a serious attitude, prepared to negotiate seriously.  And if they are, they will find a very serious counterpart on the other side, which is the United States.  But we’ll have to wait and see if they take that position, because so far what we’ve seen both in Vienna, at their – in their nuclear program, and in their dealings with the IAEA, unfortunately suggests the opposite.

With that, happy to take your questions.