The Biden administration is not focused on securing a nuclear deal with Iran amid mass protests that have broken out across the country, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday.
Price made the comment during a press conference in Washington when asked by a reporter whether the United States was still looking to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal amid mass anti-government demonstrations across the country.
The protests were prompted by the death of a young woman, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, in police custody. She had been detained by Iran’s morality police on Sept. 13 for failing to adhere to Iran’s strict Islamic dress code for women. Amini died three days later while still in police custody.
Her death has sparked outrage across the country, with many calling for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to be removed from power.
“That’s not our focus right now,” Price said, noting that Washington is focusing instead on supporting Iranian protesters.
“I think it is very clear, the Iranians have made it very clear that this is not a deal that they have been prepared to make. The deal certainly does not appear imminent. Iran’s demands are unrealistic, they go well beyond the scope of the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] and nothing we have heard in recent weeks suggests they have changed position.”
‘Remarkable Bravery and Courage’ of Iranian People
“Our focus right now is on the remarkable bravery and courage that the Iranian people are exhibiting through their peaceful demonstrations; through the exercise of their universal rights to freedom of assembly and to freedom of expression,” Price said. “Our focus right now is shining a spotlight on them and what they’re doing and supporting them.”
The United States withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal under former President Donald Trump, who then imposed tight sanctions on Iran, stating that America would “not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail.”
However, President Joe Biden has been eager to get Iran back into the deal in the hopes of preventing the country from bolstering its nuclear program, which has been growing.
Indirect talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, mediated by European Union officials, have been ongoing for over 16 months but neither parties have so far managed to come to an agreement owing to disputes over Tehran’s demand that Washington provide guarantees that no U.S. president will abandon the deal in the future.
Biden has said he cannot agree to that demand because the nuclear deal is a political understanding as opposed to a legally binding treaty.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in September that it was “not in a position to provide assurance that Iran’s nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful.”
In a report (pdf) also published in September, IAEA said that since July 2019, it has verified that Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile has exceeded 300 kilograms (661 pounds) of Uranium hexafluoride enriched up to 3.67 percent. Uranium is the main fuel used for nuclear reactors.