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‘Not At This Point’ – US Spokesman Puts Off Question Of Iran’s Missiles

A question from Iran International’s Washington correspondent Samira Gharaei at the United States State Department press briefing Monday highlighted that the ban on Iran working on missiles designed to deliver nuclear weapons expires in 2023.

In answering the question, State Department spokesman Ned Price emphasized the Biden administration’s priority, at least in the short term, of reviving the 2015 nuclear deal in talks currently taking place in Vienna. The agreement, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) bans Tehran until 2023 from "any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology."

Rather than deal directly with the question – whether the US had raised the issue of the expiry of the ballistic missile restrictions – Price said that the US was exploring a "compliance-for-compliance deal."

But Price also said that lifting US sanctions inconsistent with the 2015 nuclear deal did not preclude Washington “vigorously hold[ing] to account Iran for its behavior in other areas – its terrorism, its support for proxies, its human rights abuses.” Among the “policy tools that we would have in doing so are sanctions,” Price noted.

The talks in Vienna – involving the remaining JCPOA signatories, China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia and the United Kingdom, and the US indirectly –focus on which sanctions the US would need to end, and which steps Iran should reverse in its nuclear program, to revive the 2015 deal.

Price stressed that having the JCPOA back in place would constrain Iran’s atomic activities, which Tehran has expanded since President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the deal in 2018.

"Iran’s nuclear program has accelerated in recent years as Iran has distanced itself from the nuclear deal, installing new centrifuges, new technology, shortening that breakout time [the time needed to produce a basic nuclear weapon],” Price said. “We want to ensure that Iran is once again permanently and verifiably prevented from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and we continue to believe that the JCPOA is an appropriate tool for doing that.”

Price also stressed that reviving the JCPOA would mean Iran was “once again subject to the stringent verification and monitoring regime [by the International Atomic Energy Agency] that was in place when the nuclear deal was fully in effect."

Once the JCPOA was revived, he added, the Biden administration would seek “follow-on agreements" that would address "ballistic missiles, support for terrorism and proxies, other issues of regional concern."

Price refused to comment on suggestions of extending the JCPOA, including its restrictions on nuclear-designed missiles, to a later date. "But before we get to how we would want to make the nuclear deal longer and stronger, I think we’re focused on testing the proposition of compliance for compliance,” he said. “So, I wouldn’t want to go beyond that at this point.”

A British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National and journalist at Iran International
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