Biden will be part of a debate on Iran on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Rome with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to see how to proceed. The meeting was convened at Merkel’s request.
The debate comes a day after the U.S. imposed new sanctions against Iran related to its drone program and less than a week after Tehran announced it would return to nuclear talks in Vienna after a four-month hiatus.
The Iranian nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was abandoned by the U.S. under the Trump administration. And talks to revive the agreement in Vienna were suspended at the end of June after six rounds between Iran, China, Germany, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and – indirectly – the United States.
White House officials say the meeting has no specific purpose. Instead, they say it’s an attempt to arrange the next steps and ensure that all pages are on the same page.
“The main purpose for the four to come together – it was actually Merkel’s initiative – is that we are at a critical juncture and these four leaders have not actually had a chance to sit and talk about Iran,” a senior administration official told reporters on Friday. “And they have to have a private space to have, you know, a conversation without BS about where we are and where we need to go.”
The official described the meeting as “a serious opportunity to check the signals as we go into a very important period on this issue.”
Officials say they want the U.S. to return to the negotiating table in late November. But negotiators chosen by Iran’s new tough leadership are openly opposed to the nuclear deal, leaving little optimism in Washington.
Sources in Washington told CNN that the Biden administration is discussing how to proceed and how much to increase pressure on Iran.
One person familiar with the discussions told CNN that Biden would discuss possible options during G20 meetings with the Allies and that these costs could be imposed even when negotiations with Iran are ongoing.
However, they say the US and its allies are now more willing to impose higher costs on Iran for failing to reach an agreement if Tehran continues to implement measures that are inconsistent with the 2015 nuclear deal and bring it closer to developing nuclear weapons. .
The European diplomat said Tehran’s readiness to resume talks “is not a solution, but it is a reasonably important step forward”. This diplomat and others saw Iran’s delay in returning to talks in Vienna as a procrastination tactic as the country continued to develop its nuclear program. There is now a wide-ranging debate about “stepping up pressure” on Iran, the diplomat said.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who told reporters on his way to Rome, said Saturday’s meeting was an opportunity to “closely coordinate” with European colleagues “on a common negotiating position as we work to continue negotiations” and “a certain level on our understanding of Iran’s progress in the nuclear program since they left the JCPOA. “
Sullivan said Thursday that “it is not yet entirely clear to him (him) whether the Iranians are ready to return the talks,” and noted that “we have heard positive signals that they are, but I think we need to wait and see when and or they will actually appear at the negotiating table. “
Kylie Atwood, Nicole Gaouette and Jennifer Hansler of CNN contributed to this report.