US Senators leaving a closed briefing by US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley were pessimistic about the prospects of a nuclear agreement with Tehran.
While Republicans found more reason to criticize President Joe Biden's approach to Iran, Democrats who also sounded pessimistic continued to support the diplomatic option.
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida told Iran International's corrspondent Arash Alaei that he did not believe “a deal that is acceptable” was “possible with the current Iranian leadership,” and that “there may not be a way to keep a government that’s determined to build a nuclear capability from acquiring it …”
Rubio said Iran would “become a nuclear power, whether there’s a deal or not – I think the question with the deal is whether they’ll have more money to do it faster,” in an implicit reference to a lifting of US sanctions in case of an agreement.
Marc Rod, Washington reporter of the Jewish Insider, in tweets cited Rubio saying the administration of President Joe Biden lacked a “plan B,” referring to a back-up approach should diplomatic efforts to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal fail.
Malley was briefing the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday on the Biden administration’s current assessment of efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). Year-long talks between Iran and world powers to restore the JCPOA have been paused since March.
‘No way…without diplomacy’
Both supporters and opponents of the JCPOA have in recent days suggested that Biden’s policy is failing, with JCPOA critics insisting a ‘plan B’ is now needed.
Pessimism around the chances of the nuclear talks suspended in Vienna since March have increased compared to three weeks ago when Malley testified in the Senate.
Defending the administration’s approach, Democratic Party senator Chris Murphy told Iran International that the White House had been consistent “there is no way to protect the United States, no way to stop Iran from a path to a nuclear weapon without diplomacy, without this deal.”
Murphy insisted that the current situation – with Iran since 2019 expanding its nuclear program beyond JCPOA limits – resulted from President Donald Trump in 2018 removing the US from the agreement.
‘Absolute dumpster fire’
“We all know,” Murphy said, “that Iran has been moving rapidly to a point where it has enough fissile material in order to make a weapon – and that has only occurred because of the Trump administration’s decision to blow up this deal, and to my mind we have to get back in it as quickly as possible.”
Asked by Rod how he thought the administration assessed the chances of agreement to restore the JCPOA, Murphy said: “The chances of a breakthrough are much smaller today than they were six months ago.”
Senator Chris Van Hollen, another Democrat, expressed hope to Rod that the Biden administration was still serious about diplomacy. He said that any ‘plan B’ would include a military option and “likely result in a lot of Americans getting killed.”
Democrat Chris Coons of Delaware, said to be close to President Biden said, “The new regime in Iran has refused to make reasonable accommodations to get back into the JCPOA. I think their demands at the negotiating table that are public and their actions that are public are gravely concerning and I'm not optimistic about the path.”
Senator Ted Cruz, a long-time opponent of the 2015 deal (the JCPOA, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and staunch Trump ally, described Malley’s briefing as “quite concerning” and called Biden’s approach an “absolute dumpster fire.”