The Biden administration has alleged that Iran is poised to develop nuclear weapons capabilities in “a matter of weeks,” if the country continues to violate restraints put in place by the 2015 nuclear deal under former President Barack Obama.
In an interview with NBC News on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the Biden administration is intent on returning to the Iran nuclear deal that gave Tehran incentive to comply with nuclear restrictions, and then negotiate a “longer and stronger” accord.
After former President Donald Trump withdrew from the Obama-era deal, Iran began to contravene its restraints, meeting disapproval from the United States and its allies in the Middle East. Trump argued that Iran had proven itself a bad actor when it signed into the agreement, and used funds provided by the Obama administration to shore up its nuclear capabilities.
The Iran deal was signed by a group of six countries called the P5+1, which comprises the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — United States, China, the United Kingdom, Russia, France — in addition to Germany. Under the deal, countries agreed to lift sanctions on Iran and provide access to the global economy in exchange for promises from Iran to cease its development of nuclear weapons.
Secretary Blinken said that a new deal with Iran would include additional stipulations that were not present in the 2015 deal, including the release of American prisoners currently incarcerated in Iran.
“Irrespective of… any deal, those Americans need to be released. Period,” he said, “We’re going to focus on making sure that they come home one way or another.”
Despite overtures by the Biden administration, Iran says that it does not plan to renegotiate the deal, and holds a grudge against the United States for its unilateral withdrawal from the previous agreement.
“The nuclear accord is a multilateral international agreement ratified by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which is non-negotiable and parties to it are clear and unchangeable,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said, according to Al Jazeera.
In addition to his comments on Iran, Blinken told NBC News that the Biden administration is considering a new round of sanctions on North Korea and Russia, which recently arrested opposition politician Alexey Navalny along with thousands of protestors who took to the streets calling for his release.
Blinken did not specify what sanctions the administration intends to place on Moscow as it continues to monitor the ongoing situation. The United States reportedly also intends to investigate possible Russian election interference, the hack on SolarWinds, and alleged bounties against U.S. forces stationed in Afghanistan.
Blinken said that sanctions against North Korea are on the table due to its continued efforts to destabilize the region.