Malley: Efforts to revive JCPOA are ‘in a critical phase’

Warns ‘time is not on our side. The JCPOA cannot survive forever’

 US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley. (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – “We’re in a critical phase of the efforts to see whether we can revive the JCPOA,” said US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley in a phone briefing on Monday.

Malley reiterated President Joe Biden’s commitment not to allow Iran to have nuclear weapons, and noted that if diplomacy fails, “we have other tools and we will use other tools to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

Malley also warned that “time is not on our side,” and that “the JCPOA cannot survive forever.” He did not, however, specify a deadline to resume talks, nor did he detail what “other tools” the US has.

“We had six rounds of talks and now we’ve had a hiatus of many months, and the official reason given by Iran for why we’re in this hiatus are wearing very thin,” Malley said. 

“Particularly because at the same time as they are not coming to the table, that they’re not prepared to discuss how we could resume mutual compliance with the JCPOA, they are taking steps to expand their nuclear program, and they’re putting additional obstacles on the work of the IAEA, all of which is in contradiction or inconsistent with what they claim to be their desire to come back to the JCPOA.”

Malley noted that in light of the delay, the US is intensifying and accelerating its diplomacy to consult with allies and partners “to figure out how are we going to address and agree on how we’re going to address the attitude of the Iranians is adapting.”

He said that his team engaged in talks with partners in the Gulf, as well as with Russia and political directors of the E3 countries. In the talks, he said, the US shared its assessments and discussed the way forward. 

“In the coming days and weeks, [you will see] more intense diplomacy around this objective and you’ll see that happening in short time,” he said. “I think all of our interlocutors, whether they’re in the region or in Europe, shared the deep and growing concern about the pace and direction of Iran’s nuclear progress, particularly at a time when the US has made clear that it’s prepared to come back into compliance with the JCPOA and to take all of the steps necessary to come back into compliance. So this is not a US preoccupation, it’s not even just the Western preoccupation. This is very much a regional and even, I would say, global one that Iran has resumed its nuclear activities in ways that raise very serious questions about its intent.”

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi and EEAS Secretary General Helga Schmid attend a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria to discuss the Iran nuclear deal (credit: REUTERS/KIRSTI KNOLLE)Iran's top nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi and EEAS Secretary General Helga Schmid attend a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria to discuss the Iran nuclear deal (credit: REUTERS/KIRSTI KNOLLE)

He also noted “a shared impatience” among other countries.

“It’s now been many months since the last session of the talks in Vienna,” said Malley. 

“We could understand some hiatus due to their transition [after the election]. But at this point, it’s hard to find an explanation, an innocent explanation, for why they’re taking so long. All of our interlocutors felt the same thing – that they felt that it was imperative to resume the talks in Vienna and in a constructive way as soon as possible.”

He laid out two paths for the future. One, in which Iran and the United States and the other parties of the P5+1 “take their responsibilities seriously to find a solution to the remaining issue that were left open after the sixth round of talks in Vienna,” to find “practical, pragmatic solutions so that Iran would live by the constraints on its nuclear program that it agreed to in Vienna in 2016, and that the US would lift the economic sanctions that are inconsistent with the agreement that was reached in 2016.

“Then there’s the other path, which is that Iran chooses a different direction, continues to either delay resumption of talks or comes back with demands that clearly exceed the parameters of the JCPOA. We are increasingly concerned that that’s the path Iran is on. And so we had to discuss with our partners and allies our approach to that different reality.”

He noted that it is in Iran’s hands to choose which one it wants to take.

“Time is not on our side,” said Malley. “The JCPOA cannot survive forever.”