The United States will soon have to respond to a draft deal proposed by the European Union that would bring back the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that former President Donald Trump abandoned and current President Joe Biden tried to revive.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said that while Tehran has said Washington has made concessions, Iran has dropped some of its key demands.
“They came back last week and pretty much dropped the key breaks for a deal,” the official said.
“We believe they have finally crossed the Rubicon and taken a step toward a possible return to the deal on terms that President Biden can accept,” the official added. “If we’re closer today, it’s because Iran has moved. They’ve given in on points they’ve held to from the start.”
Iran’s foreign ministry had no immediate comment.
Iran had already largely relented on its demand that the United States lift its designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO), the official said.
“We said under no circumstances would we do that. They kept pushing for it. A month ago they started softening that core demand and said you can keep the (FTO) designation, but we’d like lifted it from some companies associated with the IRGC. We said, ‘No, we won’t do that,'” he added.
Iran also wanted assurances that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would shut down investigations into unexplained traces of uranium.
“Iran wants assurances that the IAEA will shut them all down. We said we would never accept that,” the official said.
The IAEA’s Governing Council overwhelmingly passed a resolution in June criticizing Iran for not explaining the presence of uranium traces at three undeclared sites.
The official said that rifts still exist between the United States and Iran and that “it may be some time yet” before a final agreement is reached, if at all.
“We are now studying Iran’s response and we will return to it soon,” the official said.
Earlier, State Department spokesman Ned Price said there was no guarantee an agreement could be reached, saying “the outcome of these ongoing discussions remains uncertain as gaps remain.”
Washington would have to lift some sanctions under the deal’s terms, but US officials say returning to the deal is essential to avoid a nuclear crisis in the Middle East.
“If we get this deal, yes, we will lift some sanctions, but Iran has to dismantle its nuclear program,” the official said.
All this comes at a time when Iran is believed to have enough enriched uranium to build more weapons if further refined, and is closer than ever to being able to produce them, the official said.
The nuclear deal between Iran and world powers appeared to be on the verge of revival in March after 11 months of indirect talks between the US and Iran in Vienna.
But the talks broke down over obstacles such as Iran’s desire to remove the Revolutionary Guards from the FTO list.
Iran has also demanded a guarantee from the US that no future US president would cancel the deal. Biden cannot make such rock-solid guarantees because the deal is a political agreement, not a legally binding treaty.
Another official said that with full implementation of the deal, the IAEA would be able to resume a comprehensive inspection regime that could detect any Iranian attempts to covertly pursue a nuclear weapon. Much of this oversight would be indefinite.
That official also said Iran would be prohibited from enriching and storing uranium above very limited levels, which would deprive the country of the materials needed for a bomb.
In addition, the official said Iran should no longer have 20% and 60% enriched uranium; advanced centrifuges Iran operates will be shut down and removed, including all centrifuges at its fortified underground facility in Fordow.
“Strict restrictions on Iranian enrichment would mean that even if Iran left the deal to pursue a nuclear weapon, it would take at least six months to do so,” the official said.