Blinken to US House Committee: ‘It Remains Unclear’ Whether Iran Prepared to Comply With Nuclear Deal Limits
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and said that indirect talks with Iran had not reached the point of returning to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, even in a preliminary manner.
“We’re not even at the stage of returning to compliance for compliance,” Blinken said. “We don’t know if that’s actually going to happen. We’ve been engaged in indirect conversations, as you know, for the last couple of months, and it remains unclear whether Iran is willing and prepared to do what it needs to do to come back into compliance. So we’re still testing that that proposition.”
However, Blinken said, time is running short to reach an agreement to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), now being negotiated between world powers in a series of Vienna talks.
“The longer this goes on, the more their breakout time gets down,” he said.
The JCPOA, Blinken asserted, “pushed it to a year or more. It’s now down by published reports to a few months at best, and if this continues, it will get down to a matter of weeks — exactly what we’ve sought to avoid and what the agreement stopped.”
Asked about Iran’s support for regional terrorism, and its ballistic missile construction and imperialist agenda, Blinken responded, “There are multiple egregious activities that Iran is engaged in, including missile activity proliferation, support for proxy groups, terrorism, destabilizing actions — 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. It would be able to act with even greater impunity.”
“So, the first urgent thing that we need to do, if we can, is to try to put the nuclear problem back in the box that it was in under the agreement,” he asserted.
“Unfortunately it has now gotten out of that,” he said. “And that takes away and not in the least from our ability and determination to deal with these other actions that Iran is engaged in.”
Blinken was also asked about the Israel-Hamas conflict last month, which saw over 4,000 rockets fired at Israeli civilians, and which Iran was involved as a supporter of Hamas.
“It would be unacceptable for any country to have rockets rain down on it, indiscriminately targeting civilians, and not do something about it,” Blinken said. “And as you know, we strongly supported Israel’s right to defend itself, to defend its people against these indiscriminate rocket attacks.”
Blinken reiterated recent US commitments to replenish Israel’s Iron Dome system, which intercepted hundreds of Hamas rockets fired during the latest round of hostilities.
“As a democracy, Israel also has an extra burden to do everything it possibly can to avoid civilian casualties,” he added. “We also can’t lose sight of the fact that lives were lost on both sides.”
The US Secretary of State also said that “as a practical matter,” the Biden administration recognized that Israel has control over the Golan Heights “irrespective of its legal status.”
That state of affairs will “have to remain unless and until things get to a point where Syria and everything operating out from Syria no longer poses a threat to Israel, and we are not anywhere near that,” he said.
In his opening remarks, Blinken signaled support for both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying a new State Department budget “will support our partners in the Middle East by fully funding our commitments to key countries, including Israel and Jordan, and by restoring humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.”