The Biden administration intends to keep pursuing efforts to resurrect the 2015 Iran nuclear deal despite new allegations that Tehran plotted to kidnap a U.S. citizen.
A U.S. official familiar with the issue told POLITICO in a statement that restricting Iran’s nuclear program remains an “important and urgent” concern of the United States.
The official stressed that the U.S. “categorically condemns” the alleged Iranian plot. But the official also noted that the fact that the United States was able to indict multiple Iranians suspected in the kidnap plot showed that Washington can simultaneously pursue multiple objectives when it comes to dealing with the Islamic Republic.
“So yes, we intend to continue our effort to limit Iran’s nuclear program through a return to mutual compliance with the [deal] while also actively protecting American citizens and American interests on non-nuclear issues,” the official said.
Federal prosecutors unsealed the indictment in Manhattan on Tuesday. It alleged that four Iranians plotted to abduct an Iranian American journalist living in Brooklyn who has sharply criticized the regime in Tehran for years. The journalist, Masih Alinejad, confirmed she was the target. A fifth person was also indicted on related charges.
The 2015 Iran nuclear deal lifted sanctions on Iran in exchange for restrictions on the country’s nuclear program. During his presidency, former president Donald Trump abandoned the agreement, saying it was too narrow and time limited.
President Joe Biden has sought to reenter the agreement, but the talks have taken months and hit a plateau for political, technical and other reasons.
The U.S. official argued that since Trump abandoned the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in 2018, Iran’s behavior has not improved.
“The simple fact is that since the U.S. withdrew from the JCPOA, none of our problems with Iran have gotten better — including the kind of despicable plot the Department of Justice laid out yesterday,” the U.S. official said. “Most of our problems with Iran have gotten worse, starting with the now unconstrained advances in their nuclear program.”
The Biden administration has said it wants to first return to the nuclear deal, then enter into talks with Iran about a range of issues beyond just its nuclear program.