National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, along with his Israeli counterpart, put forward the idea of an interim agreement with Iran to give more time to nuclear talks, three Israeli and U.S. sources say.
Why it matters: The idea is only preliminary, and the Biden administration is still demanding that the 2015 nuclear deal be restored in its entirety. But as nuclear talks continue in Vienna on November 29, it provides a window into at least some internal thinking in the administration.
Behind the scenes: In recent weeks, Sullivan raised the idea of an interim agreement as he discussed the next steps in the Iranian nuclear issue with his colleague Eyal Hulata.
- Two American sources familiar with the call said they were just “brainstorming” and that Sullivan conveyed an idea put forward by one of America’s European allies.
- The reason for the interim agreement is that Iran’s dramatic nuclear weapons have brought Tehran very close to the level of uranium enrichment required for nuclear weapons.
- According to U.S. sources, the idea was that in return for freezing Iran (for example, to enrich uranium to 60 percent), the U.S. and its allies could release frozen Iranian funds or exempt humanitarian products from sanctions.
Second half: Hulata told Sullivan he thought it was not a good idea and stressed Israel’s concern that all interim agreements would become a permanent agreement that would allow Iran to maintain its nuclear infrastructure and uranium reserves, an Israeli official said.
- In another call with Sullivan on Tuesday, Hulata also stressed that the United States and its European allies must demand a motion of censure against Iran at next week’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting, a source familiar with the talks said.
- Such a motion of censure on Iran would take place just a few days before the start of nuclear talks.
- A spokesman for the Israeli National Security Council said the details of this story were inaccurate, but did not specify which details and did not deny that the idea of an interim agreement had been discussed.
Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to Iran Rob Malley visited Israel this week and met with Hulatan as well as Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, who both argued that the only way to get Iran back into the 2015 deal was to increase pressure instead of loosening it. A senior Israeli official.
- Malley made it clear that the Biden administration also believes that more pressure is needed on Iran. The biggest difference is in the timing of further action against Iran, the official said.
What to watch: The U.S. approach is to go to Vienna in good faith and look at what Iran is proposing, said a U.S. source familiar with governance policy.
- If the Iranians make extreme demands, the U.S. could get other world powers, including Russia and China, to increase pressure, the source claimed.
- Iran’s position in the negotiations is that the United States must compensate for Iran’s withdrawal from the agreement, lift all (not just nuclear) sanctions imposed from 2015 at once, not in stages, and provide guarantees that no future regime will withdraw from the agreement. agreement.
What next: IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi will travel to Tehran on 22 November to discuss the Agency’s concerns about restrictions on UN inspectors in the country, followed by a meeting of the IAEA Board on Iran (24-25 November) and the resumption of negotiations (29 November).