The United States has sent its response to the European Union on a proposal to try to save the Iran nuclear deal, the US State Department confirmed Wednesday.
“As you know, we received Iran’s comments on the EU’s proposed final text through the EU. Our review of those comments has now concluded. We have responded to the EU today,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.
He did not provide details on the response, but it is not expected that the US will accept what Iran put forward without seeking changes and further negotiations.
US officials had voiced some optimism around the latest efforts to revive the nuclear deal, which the US left in 2018 during the Trump administration and which Tehran has increasingly violated since then. However, they have stressed that gaps remain between the two sides.
It is also expected to face significant domestic opposition from US congressional lawmakers, and has been denounced by Israel, whose prime minister said “will act to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state.” The negotiations over the nuclear deal are also set against a backdrop of continued concerns about threats from Iranian and Iranian-backed military groups.
EU spokesperson Nabila Massrali confirmed they “received the US response and have transmitted to Iran.”
Earlier on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Iran’s Foreign Ministry said they had received the US response via the EU and “the careful study of the views of the American side has started.”
“Iran will share its comments with the coordinator upon completion of the review,” Nasser Kanaani said, according to a statement by the Iranian Foreign Ministry.
The US answer was conveyed more than a week after Iran sent its response to what the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell called “a final text” to restore the nuclear deal. Borrell said Monday that the Iranian response was “reasonable.”
Price on Monday said the US government had been working “as quickly as we can, as methodically as we can and as carefully as we can see to it that our response is complete,” noting it “takes into account the Iranian feedback.”
Biden administration officials have claimed that Tehran dropped a number of demands that were in previous drafts of the text meant to restore the 2015 agreement, including the demand that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) be de-listed as a foreign terrorist organization.
Still issues to resolve
However, US officials have indicated that there are issues that still need to resolved before the US will agree to rejoin the deal – formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Iran has increasingly violated its commitments to the agreement and grown its nuclear program in the wake of the US withdrawal.
“We’ve said all along that if Iran were prepared to re-enter the JCPOA and if it were willing to drop the demands that are extraneous to the JCPOA, that is to say the demands that Iran previously put forward that have nothing to do with the Iran deal, then we would be prepared on a mutual basis to re-enter the Iran deal,” Price said Wednesday morning in an interview on CNN’s “New Day.”
“We’re closer today, but we’re still not there,” he said.
The US sent its response to the EU a day after Israeli National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata met with his counterpart Jake Sullivan in Washington. On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid reiterated his country’s opposition to “this agreement, because it is a bad one.”
Lapid called on the US and other parties to the deal to walk away from negotiations, and claimed the ” negotiators are ready to make concessions.”
“We have made it clear to everyone: if a deal is signed, it does not obligate Israel. We will act to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear state,” he said during a press conference in Jerusalem.
Biden administration officials have denied making any concessions to Tehran and have argued that the resumption of the deal is the best way to prevent Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon.
A senior administration official said that in the event of a full mutual reimplementation of the deal, a number of constraints would go into effect. They include a prohibition on Iran “enriching and stockpiling uranium above very limited levels,” the removal of “thousands of advanced centrifuges … including all of the centrifuges enriching at the fortified underground facility at Fordow,” and “a prohibition on reprocessing and the redesign of a reactor that could otherwise be used to produce weapons-grade plutonium.”
“Strict limits on Iranian enrichment would mean that even if Iran left the deal to pursue a nuclear weapon, it would take at least six months to do so,” the official said.
“In addition to the nuclear constraints Iran would have to implement, the IAEA would again be able to implement the most comprehensive inspections regime ever negotiated, allowing it to detect any Iranian effort to pursue a nuclear weapon covertly,” they added. “Much of that international monitoring would remain in place for an unlimited amount of time.”
CNN’s Hadas Gold, Emmet Lyons and Natasha Bertrand contributed reporting.