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April 6, 2022 2:41 pm

‘We’re Not There’: Blinken Casts Doubt on Prospects for Renewed Iran Nuclear Deal

avatar by Ben Cohen

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks in the briefing room of the State Department in Washington, U.S. January 7, 2022. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday poured cold water on the prospects of a renewed agreement with the Iranian regime over its nuclear program.

In a television interview on the first anniversary of the ongoing talks in Vienna to revive the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action (JCPOA) — the technical name for the Iran nuclear deal of 2015 agreed between Tehran and the US, the UK, the EU Germany, China and Russia — Blinken said that time was running out to secure an agreement.

“I’m not overly optimistic at the prospects of actually getting an agreement to conclusion, despite efforts we’ve put into it, and despite the fact that I believe that our security would be better off,” Blinken told MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell during an official visit to Brussels.

“We’re not there, we’ll have to see if we can close, and time is getting extremely short,” the top US diplomat added.

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Blinken’s admission that the talks may well fail was an unprompted follow-up to Mitchell’s original question as to whether Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) — which was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the State Department in 2019 — was a terrorist organization.

“They are,” Blinken responded.

Asked by Mitchell whether that would continue to be the case, Blinken said he was not prepared to divulge details of the negotiations, before adding that he was not confident that an agreement would be reached. “I continue to believe it would be in the best interests of our country if we can get back into compliance with the deal, if Iran will do the same,” Blinken emphasized. “We’re not there.”

Separately on Wednesday, 18 Democratic Party representatives in the US Congress issued a statement warning against the “looming” renewed nuclear deal.

“The old JCPOA did not work, and any new deal that does not prevent Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon is unacceptable,” Rep. Elaine Luria (VA) said in an accompanying statement. “I have serious concerns about reports that negotiators in Vienna are discussing lifting sanctions designed not only to address Iran’s illegal nuclear activities, but even its state sponsorship of terrorism.”

Another signatory to the statement, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ), expressed concern over persistent reports that the IRGC’s designation as an FTO may be lifted by the Biden Administration in order to achieve a deal.

“As the Vienna negotiations come to a close, we cannot treat the FTO designation — one of our most powerful diplomatic tools used to get cold-blooded killers out of the terrorist business — as a cheap bargaining chip,” Gottheimer said. “If Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, has proven anything, it’s that they can’t be trusted.”

Israel, which has observed the ongoing negotiations in Vienna with alarm, has made clear its rejection of any deal that would remove the IRGC’s designation. “I want to be very clear on this: The IRGC is a terror organization, and they should stay as such, and this is how they should be perceived,” Benny Gantz — Israel’s Defense Minister — said last month.

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