WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the 2015 nuclear deal put Iran’s nuclear program “in a box,” and “cut off its pathways to producing fissile material for nuclear weapons on short order.”
“When we pulled out of the agreement, the Iranians had started to lift the constraints that were imposed on them by the agreement,” he told the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
Blinken noted that under the agreement, the “breakout time” had been pushed past a year.
“And now, according to public reports, it’s three to four months and potentially getting shorter and shorter,” he said. “So I think we have an interest in getting Iran back into that nuclear box. We have fundamental problems with Iran’s actions across a whole series of things, whether it is support for terrorism, whether it’s a ballistic missile program – it’s increasingly dangerous... And Iran with a nuclear weapon, or with a threshold capacity to have one, is an Iran which is likely to act with even greater impunity when it comes to those things, so we have a real incentive to do that.”
Blinken said that “the most sustainable way to do that is through tough-minded diplomacy,” and that the administration made clear it is prepared to reengage in that diplomacy.
“There was an invitation from the European Union to all of the parties to the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] including Iran, including the United States,” he added. “We said we would attend; Iran so far has said no. I think the ball is in their court to see if they’re serious about reengaging or not.”
He also reiterated on Wednesday that the US opposes the ICC probe against Israel.
“It remains our view that jurisdiction is reserved for when a state consents to it, or if there’s a referral by the United Nations Security Council,” Blinken said. “Neither is true in the case of Israel and the Palestinian matter, nor is it true in the case of [the US] in Afghanistan.
“We have the capacity ourselves to provide accountability when those issues arise. We will continue to make clear our opposition. I think the question for us is how can we most effectively do that? And that’s something that we’re looking at right now. We’ve spoken out, we’ve been clear, and we’ll see going forward how we can most effectively engage the ICC to avoid these assertions of jurisdiction when they’re not warranted.”
Speaking about the recent normalization agreements between Israel and four Arab countries during the Trump administration, Blinken said the United States applauds the steps that have been taken toward normalization with Israel by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. “These are very important, and we want to build on them,” he said.
Asked about the administration’s decision to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council, Blinken said he shares the concerns about how the organization is “unfairly singling out Israel. When we were a member of the council, we managed to turn off a lot of those efforts; when we were outside the council, no one was there to do it.”
Asked about the way that returning to the JCPOA could affect Israel, Blinken said: “We have an unshakable commitment to Israel’s security, and it starts with the president of the United States, who has been a long and strong supporter of Israel, its security, and the relationship with the United States. That is something that is going to continue.”
He said that when it comes to the Iran nuclear agreement, “we are committed to working, consulting, and talking to our closest partners and allies, including Israel, including the Gulf States, regarding anything that we might do going forward on that agreement.”