Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US believes diplomacy is the best way to get Iran to return to the negotiating table over the scrapped nuclear deal but wouldn’t rule out a military response if Tehran fails to “engage quickly in good faith.”
Blinken said Iran has said that it would return to talks at the end of November, but “we’ll see if they actually do. That’s going to be important,” he said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
“We were also looking at, as necessary, other options if Iran is not prepared to engage quickly in good faith to pick up where we left off in June when these talks were interrupted by the change in government in Iran, and to see if we can get back to mutual compliance – both countries coming back into the agreement as quickly as possible,” he told host Margaret Brennan.
She asked if any of those options included possible military action. “As we always say, every option is on the table,” Blinken said.
“Iran, unfortunately, is moving forward aggressively with its program. The time it would take for it to produce enough fissile material for one nuclear weapon is getting shorter and shorter,” he said.
“The other thing that’s getting shorter is the runway we have where if we do get back into compliance with the agreement and Iran gets back in compliance, we actually recapture all of the benefits of the agreement,” America’s top diplomat said, adding that “Iran is learning enough, doing enough so that that’s starting to be a problem.”
After former President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and restarted sanctions, Iran, claiming the US violated the provisions of the agreement, began ramping up its enrichment of uranium and developed more centrifuges than were allowed under the accord.
The Obama administration brokered the agreement in 2015 with Iran and China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, Germany and the European Union.
Blinken, who accompanied President Biden to the G20 summit of world leaders in Rome, said restarting the Iran nuclear deal was part of the conversation.
He said Biden met with German Chancellor Angela Markel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron, as well as representatives of China and Russia because Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin were no-shows at the conference.
“We still believe diplomacy is the best path forward for putting the nuclear program back in the box it had been in under the agreement – the so-called JCPOA,” referring to the accord by its formal name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.