The United States and Israel say they are exploring a Plan B for dealing with Iran if Tehran does not return in good faith to negotiations to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said discussions between their two countries have begun on “other options” should Iran reject an offer to come back into compliance with the agreement if the U.S. rejoins. They did not elaborate on what the options might be. "We will look at every option to deal with the challenge posed by Iran," Blinken said on October 13 at a joint news conference at the State Department with Lapid and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed. The three-way talks were held to try to expand on the so-called Abraham Accords, agreements that were signed under the Trump administration to normalize relations between Israel and the U.A.E. and other Arab states. Then-President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed tough economic sanctions on Iran. U.S. President Joe Biden has signaled a willingness to return to the deal if Tehran returns to full compliance. Blinken said on October 13 that "time is running short" for Iran to return to compliance with the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but declined to give a date at which it would be too late. “We are getting close to a point at which returning to compliance with the JCPOA will not in and of itself recapture the benefits of the JCPOA and that’s because Iran has been using this time to advance its nuclear program in a variety of ways," Blinken said. Lapid was more blunt, repeating Israel's warnings that it will act with military force if necessary to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. “There are moments when nations must use force to protect the world from evil,” he said. “If a terror regime is going to acquire a nuclear weapon we must act. We must make clear that the civilized world won’t allow it. If the Iranians don’t believe the world is serious about stopping them, they will race to the bomb.”
Rob Malley, the U.S. special envoy for Iran, said Washington was ready to consider "all options" if Iran is unwilling to return to compliance with the deal.
"We will be prepared to adjust to a different reality in which we have to deal with all options to address Iran's nuclear program if it's not prepared to come back into the constraints," Malley said on October 13 in a virtual appearance at a Washington think tank. "There is every possibility that Iran will choose a different path, and we need to coordinate with Israel and other partners in the region," he added. The State Department said Malley would travel to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia from October 15-21 to coordinate with Gulf allies. Iran has hinted that it’s ready to return to indirect negotiations with the U.S. in Vienna but has not committed to a date. The talks between Iran and the remaining parties to the agreement -- Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia -- have been on hold since a June election in Iran that brought to power hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi. Raisi has stressed the need for sanctions to be lifted through diplomatic means amid concerns that his negotiating team could make new demands. Iran has long denied any ambition to acquire nuclear weapons. Enrique Mora, the top European diplomat coordinating the international talks to revive the deal, is traveling to Iran on October 14 to push for a resumption of the talks. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani, who is expected to lead Iran's new negotiating team, confirmed that he would meet Mora.