A first potential major breakthrough which so far has proved elusive after Biden has stalled on prior promises to 'immediately' restore US participation in the Iran nuclear deal, the United States appears to have just changed its tune. An admin official has said 'maximum pressure' could come to an end if Iran agrees to engage through a broader EU-hosted meeting base in the P5+1 framework.
"The United States would be ready to hold talks with Iran if the European Union extended an invitation, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday, sketching out a possible diplomatic path to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal," Reuters reports late in the day Thursday.
Further the official said the administration's "goal is to get both sides back into compliance with the nuclear deal" and has extended the invitation to Iran: "Let's talk about how to get there."
Previously the administration appeared to balk when initially just such an offer was made two weeks ago by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif for the European Union to coordinate a piecemeal approach for dropping sanctions and Iran's return to conformity.
But now Reuters has cited a top admin official to say "We are ready to show up if such a meeting were to take place" - in what's clearly an invitation for Iran to signal the same.
Iran has indicated it will begin blocking IAEA inspectors from its nuclear facilities starting Sunday, February 21st, hence this new scramble out of the Biden administration to find a way forward before this next escalation measure that many fear would be hard to roll back takes effect. Both the US and Europe are warning against such a step.
The US has lately been in direct talks with allies Britain, France, and Germany - the key European signatories to the JCPOA - and it appears they've finally struck up a common strategy in getting the frozen communications between Tehran and Washington going again.
US, EU diplomats meet to salvage Iranian nuclear pact— Joshua Landis (@joshua_landis) February 18, 2021
Both sides seem to be digging themselves into positions that show little room for successful. Distrust is highhttps://t.co/lrmnW0kMqy via @AlMonitor
At the start of this month State Department spokesman Ned Price appeared to shrug off EU-backed talks when asked directly about Tehran's expressed willingness to engage through the Europeans. He said there are "many steps" that had to be taken before engaging "directly with Iran" and before the US is willing to "entertain any sort of proposal." Later the White House appeared to walk back the comments.
The central point of controversy since Biden took office was over who would "move first". The Biden White House has been adamant thus far that Iran must return to compliance with enrichment caps and walking back breaches of the terms of the JCPOA. At the same time Iran has pointed to US hypocrisy of backing out of the deal in the first place (under Trump in May 2018) but now demanding Iran's conformity. Iran has been adamant that all sanctions be dropped.