No Iran deal while Tehran kills protesters, sells drones to Russia - US

“We simply don’t see a deal coming together anytime soon, while Iran continues to kill its own citizens and sell UAVs to Russia," John Kirby told reporters.

 Basij militia forces attend a meeting with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran November 26, 2022.  (photo credit: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/West Asia News Agency/Reuters)
Basij militia forces attend a meeting with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran November 26, 2022.
(photo credit: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/West Asia News Agency/Reuters)

A nuclear deal with Iran is not possible as long as Tehran kills its own citizens and sells armed drones to Russia, US National Security Council Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby told reporters in Washington on Tuesday.

“We simply don’t see a deal coming together anytime soon, while Iran continues to kill its own citizens and sell UAVs to Russia,” Kirby said.

“What we’re focused on right now are practical ways to confront Iran in those areas and not on the Iran deal,” he added.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said that “the JCPOA is not on the agenda, it has not been on the agenda for some time. It is certainly the case, that the Iranians killed the opportunity for a swift return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA.”

“What is very much alive is the president and this administration’s commitment that Iran is never in possession of a nuclear weapon,” he said, adding that diplomacy was the best way to do this. But he clarified, “we have an extensive tool kit and we have not removed any option from the table.”

 An Iranian missile is displayed during a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran April 29, 2022. (credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS) An Iranian missile is displayed during a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran April 29, 2022. (credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)

Iran's Foreign Minister met in Jordan with EU Foreign Policy Chief

The two US officials spoke as Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian met in Jordan on the shores of the Dead Sea with European Union Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell to discuss ways to revive the 2015 Iran deal in which Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of crippling sanctions.

They spoke about the Vienna-based talks to revive the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which stalled in September and have not resumed.

Iran’s violent crackdown on protesters, its military support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its increased enrichment of uranium have complicated US President Joe Biden’s initial plans to review the JCPOA.

Borrell tweeted that in his meeting with Amirabdollahian, he “stressed [the] need to immediately stop military support to Russia and internal repression in Iran.”

“Agreed we must keep communication open and restore #JCPOA on the basis of Vienna negotiations,” Borrell said.

The two men spoke on the sidelines of a regional Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership hosted by Jordan’s King Abdullah and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Regional participating countries include Turkey, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman. A number of those countries have bonded with neighboring Israel due to their concerns over Iran’s growing regional aggression.

The focus of the one-day conference, however, was stability in Iraq. Amirabdollahian used his time at the podium to call for the revival of the deal “provided all sides are realistic.”

He said Iran was ready to finalize the Vienna nuclear negotiations on the basis of a previous draft deal. He insisted that his country’s nuclear program was purely for peaceful purposes.

The Iranian foreign minister charged that Israel, which he called the Zionist regime, was “threatening the region.” He called for a regional referendum among Muslims, Christians and Jews to see a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Amirabdollahian also condemned Western support for the wave of protests in Iran and the “illegal” sanctions against his country.

The European Union and the United States have imposed new sanctions on Iranian officials over Iran’s crackdown on the unrest ignited by the death of young Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the morality police in September.

Iran has acknowledged supplying Moscow with drones but said they were sent before the war, where Russia has used them to target power stations and civilian infrastructure.

The United States was one of six signatories to the JCPOA, along with Russia, China, France, Great Britain and Germany.

The Trump administration exited the deal in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran. Biden has sought to revive the deal through indirect talks mediated by the EU. The US has refused to lift the sanctions in advance of the revival of the deal.

Among the complicating issues has also been Iran’s refusal to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect its undeclared nuclear sites.•

On Monday, U.N. nuclear watchdog officials left Iran after talks with the head of its nuclear energy organization, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported. It did not say whether they addressed the impasse. In New York on Monday the UN Security Council discussed the 2015 Resolution 2231, which supported the JCPOA.

Iran's U.N. ambassador, Amir Saeid Iravani said that his country was "willing to restart the [nuclear] talks as soon as possible." Iravani told the UNS that Iran would be willing to restart talks without any "conditions in order to finalize the existing text that will allow all parties to return to full compliance with their obligation under the deal."

Deputy US Ambassador Robert Wood said that "Iran's extraneous demands is the reason why there has not been a return t compliance with the JCPOA."

Iravan charged the Biden administration's "rigid" and "unrealistic" approach has led to the current situation, adding that all of Tehran's demands were within the framework of the original deal.

Wood said that "in September, a deal was within reach – one to which all other participants in the negotiations had agreed." Signatories to the deal aside from the US and France are Germany, Great Britain, Russia and China.

"At the last minute, Iran made new demands that were extraneous to the JCPOA and that it knew could not be met," Wood said.

"This was not the first time Iran’s leaders had turned their backs on a deal that was on the table, approved by all. But this last instance dashed our collective hope" that the deal could be concluded at this time, Wood said.

Separately, the UNSC heard a report by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Iran's compliance with Resolution 2231, which did not deal with the charge that Iran had sold drones to Iran stating only that the UN was examining g information on that matter.

Wood charged that Guterres had caved to pressure from Russia not to deal with the issue of the drones.

"We are disappointed that the Secretariat, apparently yielding to Russian threats, has not carried out the investigatory mandate this Council has given it," he said. 

"Russia first started using Iranian drones toward the end of last summer. Ukraine duly reported the violation to the United Nations. Other countries, including the United States, have since supplied the UN with additional information and analysis regarding this violation.

"We regret that the UN has not moved to carry out a normal investigation of this reported violation," Wood explained.

Reuters contributed to this report.