US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Monday that the “breakout time” Iran needs to assemble an atomic bomb could be reduced to just weeks, if Tehran keeps violating the 2015 accord limiting its nuclear program.
Testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Biden administration’s budget for the fiscal year of 2021, Blinken admitted that it is unclear if Iran is “willing and prepared” to come back into compliance with the agreement, as talks continue for the United States to rejoin the deal.
“Meanwhile, its program is galloping forward… The longer this goes on, the more the breakout time gets down… it’s now down, by public reports, to a few months at best. And if this continues, it will get down to a matter of weeks,” he lamented.
Former US president Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, claiming that it did not do enough to prevent the Islamic republic from building a nuclear weapon.
Trump tightened sanctions on Tehran, and the Iranian authorities responded by loosening restrictions on their nuclear program imposed by the deal.
US President Joe Biden has said that he would rejoin the agreement if Iran returns to compliance with its caps. Washington says it plans to negotiate a “longer and stronger” subsequent deal once the sides have reentered the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The two sides have been negotiating in Vienna since April through their partners in the multilateral agreement — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia.
The talks are scheduled to resume later this week in the Austrian capital.
“We’re not even at the stage of returning to compliance for compliance,” Blinken said Monday. “We don’t know if that’s actually going to happen.”
“There are multiple egregious activities that Iran is engaged in… Each and every one would be even worse if Iran had a nuclear weapon or was on the threshold of being able to have one,” Blinken said, pushing back against claims by Republicans that Iran’s behavior in the region should lead the US to end nuclear deal reentry talks.
In April the IAEA launched a new process of “technical discussions” with Iran in an effort to “break the impasse” over the sites.
But a report issued last week made clear that the IAEA’s queries had not been resolved.
International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi said Monday that his “expectations were not met” and that there had been no “concrete progress” on the issue, despite the Iranian authorities’ stated willingness to cooperate.
“Talk must lead to conclusions,” he said.
Courtesy: The Times of Israel