The US is ready to “turn to other options” if diplomacy fails to convince Iran of the need to return to the original nuclear deal, a senior Biden administration official said Monday.
Speaking to reporters ahead of a visit to Washington by Israel’s National Security Council chief, the US official said meetings would focus on regional issues and, “of course, Iran.”
White House National Security Council head Jake Sullivan is scheduled to meet his Israeli counterpart, Eyal Hulata, on Tuesday.
His visit comes on the heels of Sullivan’s trip last week to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt.
Egypt has played a key role in mediating the conflict between Palestine and Israel, and Sullivan is expected to discuss the results of his meetings in Cairo.
But the main focus is expected to be on Iran and its continuing efforts to enrich uranium and the needed materials to develop a nuclear weapon.
“We remain committed to a diplomatic path,” the US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters in a phone call.
“We think that is the best way to put a ceiling on a program and roll back the gains that Iran has made in recent years,” he added.
The official said Washington and Israel have a “common assessment” of the extent to which Iran’s nuclear program had “dramatically broken out of the box since the previous administration left the nuclear deal.” He was referring to former President Donald Trump, who withdrew from the deal, which was brokered by his predecessor Barack Obama.
Iran refused to engage in talks on a new deal under Trump, but it resumed talks after President Joe Biden was elected in January. After several rounds of indirect negotiations in Vienna, the new Iranian government stalled talks.
Tehran has said in recent days that it was ready to resume the process in Vienna, while Washington has continued to wait.
“But obviously, if that doesn’t work, there are other avenues to pursue, and we’re fully committed to ensuring that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon,” the US official said Monday. “And the President made clear when he saw [Israeli] Prime Minister Bennett that if diplomacy fails, we’re ready to turn to other options.”
The official did not elaborate.
After initially refraining from using the term “Abraham Accords,” which was given to the peace treaties signed between the UAE, Bahrain and Israel under Trump, the Biden administration has doubled down on its commitment to expanding the number of countries normalizing ties.
Although major Arab and Gulf nations, including Morocco and Sudan, have agreed to normalize relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia continues to remain adamant on an independent Palestinian state before announcing peace with Israel.
Asked if this was discussed during last week’s trip to Saudi Arabia and if it was a possibility, the official said it would “be a game-changer.”
“But, I don’t want to get ahead of any process. These are decisions for the Saudis, and I think I’ll just leave it there,” the US official said.
The administration official also said that Washington was working behind the scenes to help strengthen the existing Abraham Accords and expand them.