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US nearing a possible nuclear deal with Iran, White House official says

That being said, official adds that there's also a chance "that these talks could collapse very soon”

Deputy Secretary General of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Enrique Mora, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani and delegations wait for the start of a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria, Dec. 17, 2021. (Photo: EU Delegation in Vienna/EEAS/Handout via REUTERS)

A senior White House official said that the United States and Iran are getting closer to a possible agreement with Iran in Vienna over nuclear weapons. 

“We’re in the ballpark of a possible deal,” White House National Security Council coordinator for the Middle East Brett McGurk said during an event hosted by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “But again, I’m not going to put odds on this. There’s [also] a very real chance that these talks could collapse very soon.”

After months of stalemate, talks in Vienna began to show some progress. The U.S. State Department reaffirmed on Monday that the United States is prepared to hold direct talks with Iran while Tehran announced it would consider such an option. 

“Reports saying that Iran and the U.S. are directly negotiating with one another are untrue,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said during a news conference. “However, if we get to a stage where reaching a good deal with strong guarantees necessitates direct talks with the U.S., we will consider it.”

Last week, NBC News reported that Russia offered Iran to sign an interim agreement with world powers. Under the proposal, Iran would be required to stop its uranium enrichment at a level of 60% purity and dispose of its current stockpile by exporting it to Russia. In exchange, Iran will receive a partial sanctions’ relief from the U.S. and gain access to billions of dollars in frozen oil revenues in foreign bank accounts. 

The Biden administration was reportedly aware of the Russian proposal rejected by Tehran. Israel opposes the idea of an interim agreement with Iran and says it will be an “enormous gift” to regime.   

On Wednesday, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan held a virtual meeting with his Israeli counterpart Eyal Hulata over Iran’s nuclear program. Sullivan emphasized that “while the United States remains committed to diplomacy as the best means for preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, the United States is preparing alternative options, in coordination with its partners, should diplomacy fail,” according to a White House statement. 

The Vienna negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear deal started in April and resumed in late November, after Ebrahim Raisi was elected president in Iran. The eighth round of talks began after the new year. 

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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