US believes Iran nuclear deal reboot ‘highly unlikely’ – Axios

A senior American official said nuclear talks with Tehran have all but broken down

White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk has said the chances of reviving the 2015 nuclear pact with Iran are “highly unlikely,” Axios has reported.

The claim follows months of stop-start negotiations and a war of words between Tehran and Washington. 

A top adviser to President Joe Biden, McGurk voiced major doubts about a return to the agreement in recent remarks to think tank experts, the outlet reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources. He blamed Iran for the impasse, claiming it wants the US to “add something to the pot” and alter the terms of the deal, though did not specify what that might entail.

However, McGurk insisted “we are not going to do that,” stating that Washington would not accept Tehran’s proposal and is willing to use sanctions and “diplomatic isolation” against the country in the meantime.

The adviser suggested Iran is seeking to change some details of the agreement – formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – in order to convince skeptics within the government who have urged against any return to the deal.

Since former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the pact in 2018, Tehran has also gradually stepped away from its own commitments, insisting Washington must stick to the deal’s original terms and lift the sanctions imposed on its economy. Iran has continued to boost its enrichment of uranium beyond limits set out under the JCPOA, and most recently declared that it would construct a new nuclear research reactor near the city of Isfahan.

While Biden has repeatedly said he would like to revive the agreement, months of negotiations have yet to show tangible results, with Washington and Tehran engaged in mutual finger-pointing over who is to blame for the lack of progress.

Though Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, the recent ramp-up in its nuclear activities has raised concerns for some in the West.  

In mid-July, a senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Kamal Kharazi, claimed that the country had the technical capability to produce a nuclear bomb but had not yet made the political decision to do so. Khamenei, however, has previously stated that all weapons of mass destruction are forbidden in Islam – even issuing a religious decree against such arms in 2003 – a position repeatedly reiterated by Tehran over the years, including just earlier this month.