US State Department Thursday said remarks by Britain’s spy chief that Iran is not interested in a nuclear deal, did not need any special intelligence insight.
Richard Moore, chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) known as MI6, speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, he was skeptical that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei wants to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement known as the JCPOA.
"I'm not convinced we're going to get there. ... I don't think the Supreme Leader of Iran wants to cut a deal," Moore said and added, "The Iranians won't want to end the talks either, so they could run on for a bit."
Asked about these remarks during the State Department briefing on Thursday, spokesperson Ned Price said, “I…don’t think you need a security clearance to discern the fact that Iran at this point doesn’t seem to have made the political decision – or decisions, I should say – necessary to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA.”
After almost 16 months of negotiations with Iran and seven months after Washington says a final draft was offered to Tehran, negotiations remain stalled, as Iran seems to demand more concessions. More pundits and critics of the Biden strategy have begun to say that Iran simply wants to drag out the talks to prevent any decisive decision in Washington, while expanding its nuclear program to the point of a nuclear threshold state.
Price in his comments Thursday agreed with Moore’s assessment. The fact is that a deal has been on the table for months now. We have continued to engage in indirect diplomacy with Iran, courtesy of the efforts of the European Union and other partners, but Iran, to this point at least, has not displayed an inclination to seek that deal. So certainly, those comments ring true,” he said.
Iran’s former president Hassan Rouhani told his former aides in Tehran earlier this week that he could have made a deal with the new Biden Administration as early as March 2021 but the hardliners in parliament blocked any progress in the talks by passing legislation to intensify uranium enrichment and reducing UN inspections.
But the Biden Administration still argues that diplomacy remains the best option to restrain Iran’s nuclear program.
The British spy chief who said he agrees with the diplomatic option said, "I think the deal is absolutely on the table. And the European powers and the (US) administration here are very clear on that. And I don't think that the Chinese and Russians, on this issue, would block it. But I don't think the Iranians want it.”
Speaking later in the day at the Aspen forum, Israel's defense minister Benny Gantz said Israel had the military capability to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, if it came to that as a last resort.
"Should we be able to conduct military operation to prevent it, if needed? The answer is yes. Are we building the ability? Yes. Should we use it as a last (resort)? Yes. And I hope that we will get United States' support," Gantz said.
Bahrain's Undersecretary of Political Affairs Sheikh Abdulla bin Ahmed bin Abdulla Al Khalifa declined to directly answer a question about whether his country might participate in pre-emptive military action against Iran's nuclear program.
But when asked whether it would be fair to interpret his answer as "an ambiguous maybe," he quipped: "Fair enough."