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U.S. National-Security Adviser Warns Iran Nuclear Diplomacy May Be Exhausted Within 'Weeks'

By RFE/RL December 22, 2021

U.S. national-security adviser Jake Sullivan has warned that current diplomatic efforts aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran may be exhausted within "weeks."

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Israel on December 22, Sullivan said Washington and its partners were discussing time frames for nuclear diplomacy with Iran.

"We're not circling a date on the calendar in public, but I can tell you that behind closed doors we are talking about time frames, and they are not long," he said.

Asked to elaborate on the time frame, Sullivan replied: "Weeks."

His comments come as negotiators report that talks in Vienna aimed at salvaging the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers are moving at a slow pace, while the United States has voiced concerns that the time required for Iran to develop nuclear weapons has become "unacceptably short."

Tehran denies pursuing nuclear weapons.

The latest talks in Vienna adjourned on December 17 and are set to resume next week.

In 2018, then-U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 deal meant to curb Iran's nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, prompting Tehran to resume many of its nuclear activities that it had agreed to halt or limit.

President Joe Biden has said he is willing to rejoin the pact if Iran returns to full compliance.

During a meeting with Sullivan, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reaffirmed his country's opposition to the nuclear negotiations with Iran.

"What happens in Vienna has profound ramifications for the stability of the Middle East and the security of Israel for the upcoming years," said Bennett, who has accused Israel's regional archenemy of "nuclear blackmail."

Israel has long hinted that it could resort to preemptive strikes to deny Iran the means to make a bomb. However, there have been doubts among security experts about whether Israel has the military capability to effectively halt the Iranian nuclear program on its own.

Sullivan told reporters in Israel that Washington continues to believe that "diplomacy, deterrence, and pressure" remain the best way to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Earlier, the U.S. national-security adviser told Bennett that the United States and Israel were at a "critical juncture" on various security issues and should develop a joint strategy.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said he has discussed with Sullivan "the strategy for combating Iran's nuclear program and the way in which the U.S. and Israel cooperate on this issue."

Meanwhile, the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth published an interview with the incoming Israeli Air Force commander, who said the country could successfully strike Iran's nuclear program tomorrow, if needed.

"I have to assume it will happen in my time, and my shoulders already understand the weight of the responsibility," Major General Tomer Bar said.

A senior Biden administration official told reporters last week that Washington believes Iran's breakout time to producing enough highly enriched uranium for one nuclear weapon is now "really short" and alarming.

The anonymous official did not give a precise time frame for the breakout, which has been estimated to be several months.

"But it's really short. It is unacceptably short," the official said, calling it "alarming."

On December 22, Sullivan also met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas in the occupied West Bank.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and The Jerusalem Post

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/iran-nuclear -israel-sullivan/31621163.html

Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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