As Iran deal negotiations continue to stall, the Biden administration is preparing for a world where the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program has no constraints, according to U.S. special envoy for Iran Robert Malley.
In a virtual discussion Wednesday concerning the future of U.S. relations with Iran hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Malley attacked the previous administration, casting blame on President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the landmark 2015 nuclear deal and claiming that “we didn’t need to be here.”
If the prior administration had not unilaterally withdrawn from the deal, everything that people who are worried about… Iran’s nuclear program and rightfully worried — the runaway nuclear program, higher levels of enrichment, more advanced centrifuges, work on uranium metal, obstacles to the access by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) — all of that is in violation of the deal which Iran had been respecting until the U.S. withdrew.
“I think there certainly was an alternative path in which we would be in a very different situation if we had not withdrawn from the deal,” he said, “but what’s done is done.”
Malley, who once served as special assistant to then-President Barack Obama and as a key member of Obama’s team that negotiated the Iran deal, was appointed special envoy for Iran by the Biden administration in January.
Admitting that the Biden administration had thought it “had a pretty good sense of what the Iranians were looking for,” Malley cast doubt on whether supposed progress in six previous rounds of talks with Iran was accurate or not.
“[W]ere we really reading the Iranians correctly even then?” he asked, adding, “every day that goes by we’re getting a piece of Iran’s answer.”
He also highlighted the reality of a new administration at the helm.
“We now have a different team, a different leadership, [and] a different president that is clearly stating that it wants to do things differently,” he said.
Yet despite U.S. overtures, including the willingness to “remove all of the sanctions that were imposed by the Trump administration,” he lamented that “the Iranians have refused to have direct communication [and] direct contact with us,” adding, “everything has been done through intermediaries.”
Malley also warned that Iran successfully achieving nuclear capabilities in the near future is a realistic scenario.
“We have to prepare for a world … where Iran doesn’t have constraints on its nuclear program,” he said, adding that options are being considered to “deal with” such a scenario even as the Biden administration seeks a return to the Iran deal.
“And we have to consider options to deal with that — which is what we’re doing — even as we hope that we can get back to the deal that is by far our preference,” he noted.
The Obama-led nuclear deal, from which then-President Trump withdrew from in 2018, delineates an enrichment limit of 3.67 percent.
Iran has been accused of violating the agreement, with Tehran having since produced 10 kilograms of uranium enriched to nearly 60 percent, according to a report published last month by the Institute for Science and International Security, a U.S.-based think tank.
The report concluded that Iran is on track to obtaining enough enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb within one month.
In addition, Iran continues to be seen as a direct threat to Western interests.
Iranian Armed Forces Spokesman Brigadier-General Abolfazl Shekarchi affirmed last month that the United States is the Iranian republic’s top enemy while describing his country’s commitment to the elimination of the Jewish state.
In his remarks, which were made during an interview that aired on Iranian TV, the senior spokesman referred to Israel as “the dog guarding America,” while deeming the United States “the number one enemy of the Iranian people.”
As a result of recent major advancements toward obtaining nuclear weapons, the U.S. and Israel said Wednesday they are exploring a “plan b” for dealing with Iran in the event that it refuses to return to negotiations concerning the nuclear deal.
However, Israeli officials have been increasingly concerned the Biden administration is not taking the Iranian threat seriously enough and does not have a realistic backup plan in case a return to the 2015 nuclear deal collapses entirely, a senior Israeli official told Al-Monitor.
The anonymous official stated, “the situation is bad; perhaps very bad.”
“They see events in a completely different way than we do. It’s their right, of course, but it is of great concern to us,” he added.
On Tuesday, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Biden administration’s continued appeasement of Iran may leave Israel with no choice but to attack its nuclear facilities.
Pompeo also said that given another year or two under the Trump administration, Iran’s nuclear ambitions would have been permanently eliminated.
“We were never going to let Iran get a nuclear weapon on our watch,” he said.
“We denied them resources, and we denied them the ability to build out a Gulf-threatening culpability,” he continued.
“The strike on [former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander] Qasem Soleimani demonstrated our willingness to defend American interests around the world,” he added. “The work we were engaged in would have prevented Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”
On Thursday, Iranian Americans for Liberty Executive Director Bryan Leib slammed the Biden administration’s attempts to “engage in diplomacy” with the theocratic regime.
“President Biden’s efforts to engage in diplomacy with the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism was destined to fail from the onset,” he said in an exclusive statement to Breitbart News. “The Regime in control of the Islamic Republic of Iran are bad actors that haven’t changed their tune once since they took power in 1979.”
“Furthermore, we must not engage in more diplomacy with another nation that doesn’t share our values and, more importantly, how does diplomacy with the Iranian Regime benefit the American people?” he added.
Highlighting his group’s support for the Iranian people as it pushes back against the Iranian regime that “terrorizes” them, Leib called for a tougher stance.
“The time is now to get tough on the Iranian Regime that terrorizes their own people,” he said.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein