Biden’s top diplomat on Wednesday accused Iran of failing to negotiate in good faith over its nuclear program and said the U.S. is looking at “other options” to prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remarks were a notable shift for the Biden administration, which had spent months trying to salvage the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement that limited Iran’s ability to enrich uranium to weapons-grade levels, among other restrictions.
Former President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal, and Iran has since violated the agreement.
Blinken made the comments before meeting with his counterparts from Israel and the United Arab Emirates. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Iran’s nuclear capability topped their agenda and warned that Tehran is on the threshold of becoming a nuclear-armed state.
Blinken stopped short of declaring the diplomatic talks dead and said those talks remained the administration’s preferred course. But he suggested that Iran was using stalling tactics to advance its weapons program.
“Iran has been using this time to advance its nuclear program in a variety of ways, including enriching uranium to 20% and even 60%, using more advanced centrifuges, acquiring more knowledge,” Blinken said. Uranium typically must be enriched to about 90 percent or higher to be considered “weapons grade.”
“We are prepared to turn to other options if Iran doesn’t change course,” he said. “Time is running short.”
Lapid suggested that “everybody” in the U.S., Israel and Iran understands that means a military strike, although he and Blinken both avoided stating that directly.
“We know there are moments when nations must use force to protect the world from evil,” Lapid said in opening remarks. “If a terror regime is going to acquire a nuclear weapon, we must act.”
Blinken said the U.S. would be willing to return to negotiations if Iranian officials demonstrated a real commitment to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, negotiated by the U.S. and other world powers. But both he and Lapid said the diplomatic path was closing.
“Iran is becoming a nuclear threshold country,” Lapid said. “Every day that passes, every delay in negotiations, brings Iran closer to a nuclear bomb.”
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