WASHINGTON: Britain’s spy chief voiced doubt Thursday on reviving a landmark 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, saying Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei remained opposed despite marathon diplomacy with the United States.
“If we can get a deal it’s probably the best means still available to constrain the Iranian nuclear program. I’m not convinced we’re going to get there,” MI6 chief Richard Moore told the Aspen Security Forum.
“I don’t think the supreme leader of Iran wants to cut a deal. The Iranians won’t want to end the talks either so they could run on for a bit,” he said in a live interview in the US state of Colorado, in what was billed as his first public speaking appearance abroad.
President Joe Biden has backed reviving the 2015 agreement which was negotiated under former US leader Barack Obama and trashed three years later by Donald Trump.
But indirect talks brokered by the European Union in Vienna have dragged on, in part over the US rejection of Iranian demands to reverse Trump’s blacklisting of the powerful Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist group.
“I think the deal is absolutely on the table. And the European powers and the administration here are very, very clear on that. And I don’t think that the Chinese and Russians on this issue would block it. But I don’t think the Iranians want it,” Moore said.
Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia were all parties to the deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, under which Iran drastically scaled back nuclear work in exchange for promises of sanctions relief.
Iran remains technically in the accord but moved out of compliance in retaliation for Trump’s reimposition of sweeping sanctions, including a unilateral ban on Iran selling its oil.
The Biden administration has refused to declare the deal dead, saying Iran still has a chance to return and enjoy the economic benefits.
Israel, Tehran’s arch-enemy, has stepped up a campaign of sabotage that is widely believed to have included assassinations of nuclear scientists on Iranian soil.