Washington: Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, warned of “an escalating nuclear crisis” with Iran as the Biden administration seeks to salvage the multinational agreement that President Donald Trump abandoned.
Tehran is moving “closer and closer to having enough fissile material” for a nuclear weapon, Sullivan said at an event at the US Institute of Peace on Friday. Returning to the deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear programme is a “critical early priority” for the new administration, he said.
“We would like to reestablish some of the parameters and constraints around their program that have fallen away over the course of the past few years,” Sullivan said.
The White House announced Friday that Rob Malley, who served on the Obama administration team that negotiated the original Iran deal, would serve as an envoy to the Islamic Republic. The administration has called on Iran to return to compliance under the deal, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki saying there was an opportunity to build on the existing agreement if Iran undertakes “the significant nuclear constraints” already negotiated.
The Institute of Peace event also featured Sullivan’s predecessor, Trump’s national security adviser Robert O’Brien. Sullivan’s remarks on Iran were a moment of obvious friction between the men at an event intended to signal continuity in US foreign policy despite the acrimonious transition that saw Trump refuse to accept his electoral defeat and his supporters storm the US Capitol.
Sullivan thanked O’Brien for the “really great partnership he provided” during a “strange and in some ways turbulent” transition, and said Biden’s team would seek to build on progress the Trump administration had made striking a peace deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan and normalising relations between Israel and Arab states. O’Brien said he had assured allies of the country’s “strength and resilience” during the transition period.
“There are things we may differ on, whether it’s Iran or other issues, but there’s a lot of continuity and consistency,” O’Brien said.
Iran began enriching uranium at levels exceeding limits in the 2015 deal former President Barack Obama negotiated after Trump disowned the accord and implemented new sanctions. Iran’s government has insisted that the new administration remove the sanctions as a first step.