“We’re continuing to suffer from the very bad decisions President Trump made to pull out of the JCPOA,” Biden told reporters at a press conference at the G20 in Rome, using the acronym for the formal name of the nuclear agreement – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
The Iran nuclear deal was abandoned by the US under the Trump administration and talks to resurrect the deal in Vienna were suspended in late June after six rounds between Iran, China, Germany, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and – indirectly – the United States. The Biden administration has pledged to reenter the deal, but the President’s negotiators have been faced with tough talks and decisions on how to do so. At the same time, Iran began enriching uranium again once the Trump administration pulled the US out of the deal and has become more belligerent in the Middle East, as hardline new leadership has risen to power and Iranian-backed militias continue to strike American troops.
Biden held a meeting three of the leaders of nations who are party to that deal – German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson – on Saturday at the G20. The leaders said afterward they are “convinced that it is possible to quickly reach and implement an understanding on return to full compliance” of the Iran nuclear deal.
The meeting came two days after the US imposed new sanctions on Iran related to its drone program and less than a week after Tehran announced it would return to nuclear talks in Vienna with following a four-month hiatus.
US officials are highly skeptical that renewed talks over how to handle Iran’s nuclear program will yield the desired results and are actively discussing imposing penalties on Tehran.
Sources in Washington told CNN there is an ongoing debate within the Biden administration about how to proceed and how much to increase the pressure on Iran, with some sources beleiving the US and its allies are now more willing to impose a higher cost on Iran for failing to come to an agreement if Tehran continues to take actions that are inconsistent with the 2015 nuclear deal and bring it closer to developing a nuclear weapon.
US officials previously indicated they want the US to return to the negotiating table at the end of November. But the negotiators selected by Iran’s new hardline leadership openly oppose the nuclear deal, leaving little optimism in Washington.
When Sunday whether his administration will respond if Iran launches drone strikes or makes any other provocation, Biden answered: “We are going to continue to respond.”
CNN’s Kate Sullivan, Maegan Vazquez, Kevin Liptak, Kylie Atwood, Nicole Gaouette, Jennifer Hansler and Donald Judd contributed to this report.