Dennis Ross, a former Middle East aide in the Obama administration

Washington Not To Opt For Reviving 2015 Nuclear Deal – Ex-Adviser

Thursday, 01/26/2023

An American foreign policy aide in successive US administrations told Iran International that the only way the US would remove sanctions on Tehran is a whole new deal. 

In a face-to-face with our correspondent Arash Alaei, Dennis Ross said that the Islamic Republic has lost its chance to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with making extra demands, noting that now the only move that may kickstart the talks is a halt in Tehran’s uranium enrichment to over five-percent purity. 

Iran should not be enriching to 60 percent or even 20 percent, he said, adding that the Islamic Republic is crossing thresholds that may push the Biden administration to a path that it would not like to pursue, he said. The Biden administration might say “what was on the table is no longer on the table. You had a chance to do the JCPOA and you chose to try to get more,” he added. 

He said that the administration sought a longer and stronger deal since the beginning, speculating that if they want to agree on a deal, it will not be going back to the JCPOA. “The deal has to apply for much longer; it has to be stronger, then there would be readiness to talk about a deal,” he said, foreseeing that Washington would ask Tehran to give up more if it wants to potentially get more.

Ross was the director of policy planning in the State Department under President George H. W. Bush, the special Middle East coordinator under President Bill Clinton, and a special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southwest Asia -- which includes Iran -- to the former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

Referring to the recent round of Western sanctions on the Islamic Republic officials, Ross said that this is a message to Tehran that “we are collectively hardening our approach because of the behavior of the Iranian regime.” He added that slapping the Revolutionary Guard with the terrorism label by the Europeans has never been really considered. Ross mentioned the coordination among the US and its allies to close the loopholes so that Iran cannot sell its oil as another measure that showed the world is standing against the regime.

Dennis Ross, a former Middle East aide in the Obama administration, during an interview with Iran International’s Arash Alaei

All of these indicate that “the Islamic Regime needs to understand that life is going to become more difficult for them if they stay in the path they are on,” he underlined. 

The West on Monday stepped up pressure on Iran over its crackdown on protests and arms supply for the Russian invasion of Ukraine as the US, the European Union and United Kingdom imposed fresh sanctions on Tehran. However, the EU stopped short of designating the IRGC a terrorist outfit, as the European Parliament had voted last week to urge the block to do.

He said that the regime is enriching uranium to the levels that have no civilian use, elaborating that Iran “continues to move ahead with its nuclear program. It has 16 cascades of advanced centrifuges – the IR6s -- that are enriching to 60 percent, for which there is no justifiable civilian purpose.” “When you enrich uranium, you can rationalize it saying we’re going to use it to generate electrical power. When you enrich to 60 percent, you have one purpose in mind.” 

The Islamic Republic “has probably four bombs worth of enriched material to 60 percent,” adding that “60 percent is not weapons grade but it’s close to weapons grade,” Ross said. It means it takes very little time for them to turn the fissile material into bombs, he added. “You still have to take that fissile material and take it to weapons. There is a big difference between enrichment, which is taking place in large facilities and the process of weaponization, which can be taking place in facilities that we wouldn’t be aware of,” Ross warned. 

The Middle East expert believes that Iranians are playing with fire. If the Biden administration says, “we will prevent you from having a nuclear weapon, they are pushing the Biden administration towards what will be a military action, even if that's not what the Biden administration would prefer to do.” 

About the joint military war games by the US and Israel -- their biggest so far with thousands of forces, a dozen ships, and 142 aircraft, including nuclear-capable bombers – he said the nature of this maneuver is unprecedented as they have integrated every domain. “They are doing it in space, they are doing it in air with aircraft, they are doing it in cyber, they are doing it on the ground, and they are doing it with naval. All these separate domains, all these separate forces are being integrated between the two and they include suppression of air defenses; it includes B52 bombers,” he added. The scope of such war games “involves a kind of action the US and Israel would be taking if there was a decision to carry out the use of force against Iran’s nuclear program.” He described the drills as a rehearsal or preparation for such an action against Iran, he highlighted. 

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