Jake Sullivan, the US national security advisor, says “all sides” are ready to talk “seriously” about a way back to the nuclear deal.
Indirect negotiations between the United States and Iran on the return to the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal focus on what US sanctions need to end and what steps Iran needs to take to resume its commitments, a senior White House official said in Biden on Friday.
“We saw the willingness of all sides, including the Iranians, to speak seriously about sanctions restrictions and a way back into the JCPOA,” said Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor, on Friday.
Sullivan’s comments to a US group followed the start of a third round of talks in Vienna this week, with representatives from the UK, China, France, Germany, Russia and the European Union commuting between US and Iranian delegations.
“I’m not going to characterize the content of the negotiations here because they are in … an unclear place,” Sullivan said in a webinar on the Aspen Security Forum.
“It is still uncertain whether this will lead to a deal in Vienna,” he said.
The JCPOA is an acronym for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which is the official title of the United Nations-backed agreement between Iran and the world powers of 2015 that bans Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
Former President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the agreement in 2018 and again imposed tough economic sanctions on Iran. In response, Tehran has begun enriching uranium in higher levels approaching weapon levels.
President Joe Biden has pledged to return to the deal. Iran declined direct talks on resuming compliance in exchange for lifting US sanctions.
Sullivan was asked if the Iranians are negotiating in good faith.
“I think good faith is always in the eye of the beholder,” he said. “The Iranians have come seriously to have serious discussions about the details and the teams are now working on those details.”
Talks revolved around how the US should lift sanctions and Iran stop enrichment work, Sullivan said.
In recent days, senior Israeli officials met with Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington to convey Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s concern about progress in Iran’s nuclear program.
The Aspen Security Forum is an annual, non-partisan conference in the state of Colorado that this year focused on Biden’s first 100 days in office. Speakers also included Biden’s Assistant Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, former Trump Deputy Secretary of State Steve Biegun, and former Obama’s National Security Advisor Tom Donilon.
The US can use “whips and carrots” to sway human rights protection in Afghanistan after US and NATO forces and foreign contractors were withdrawn on Biden’s orders later this year, Deputy Secretary Hicks said.
Sullivan added that the Biden administration believes the US will have “sufficient capabilities” to disrupt “threats” in Afghanistan.
In the meantime, the White House is still planning a summit between Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin to be held in a European nation over the next few months.
And China is seeing renewed US economic growth and revitalized alliances in the Indo-Pacific, Sullivan said. “It makes them think twice about whether the US is on the way down,” he said.