The US Special Envoy for Iran on Monday said the United States is focused on matters on Iran “where we can be useful,” and is not currently going to “waste our time” on the nuclear deal “if nothing’s going to happen.”
Rob Malley said the US is still committed to diplomacy to constrain Iran’s nuclear program, but has turned its attention away from efforts on the nuclear deal amid sweeping protests in Iran and transfers of weapons from Tehran to Moscow for the war in Ukraine.
The special envoy’s latest comments reflect how stagnant the talks to restore the nuclear agreement have become – talks that just months ago the US and allies believed had reached a breakthrough.
Speaking at an event hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Monday, Malley said “several times we came very close” to an agreement to rejoin the deal, which the US quit under the Trump administration. Iran has increasingly breached its commitments to the deal and has developed its nuclear program.
“Each time we came close, Iran came up with one new extraneous demand that derailed the talks,” Malley said.
“That’s where we were late August, early September and there has been no movement since then,” he said, adding, “nothing’s happening on the nuclear deal so we’re not going to spend our time, waste our time on it, if nothing’s going to happen.”
“We’re going to spend our time where we can be useful,” he said, including supporting the protesters in Iran, and trying to stop the transfer of weapons from Tehran to Moscow for use in the war in Ukraine.
Despite the standstill on efforts over the nuclear deal, Malley defended the administration’s continued efforts to restore the agreement, arguing that the Trump administration tried the alternative and “it didn’t work.”
“We make no apology for having tried and still trying to do everything we can to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Again, a preference for diplomacy if that can work, with tools of pressure, sanctions in particular. But also keeping very much all options on the table in case diplomacy were to fail,” Malley said.
“We will use other tools, and in last resort, a military option if necessary, to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” he added.
He also said that the administration has continued to pursue its policy priorities regardless of the negotiations on the deal.
“There is nothing now that we are not doing because we are thinking of the potential of a potential nuclear deal in the future,” he said, adding “we’re not tying our hands because of this hope that someday there’ll be a deal.”