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Can an interim deal break the Iran nuclear impasse?

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Published in Responsible Statecraft

With all diplomatic engagement effectively halted since September 2022, the crisis over Iran’s ongoing nuclear program has folded into the background of international politics. Both sides are wary of escalating the situation, but Iran’s economic and political isolation is taking a toll while its nuclear program is accumulating a growing stockpile of highly-enriched fissile material.

Currently, Iran is amassing enough “nuclear material for several nuclear weapons,” according to Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

After 17 months of diplomatic fits and starts, the moribund Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action remains the cleanest framework to end the crisis and yet, its revival is elusive. The Biden administration’s proposals to resume compliance have run out of steam, despite initial signs that Iran might accept a compliance for sanctions relief arrangement. While U.S. Iran envoy Robert Malley reiterated last week that he is still seeking a “diplomatic outcome,” another U.S. diplomat has said that Iran “continues to refuse” direct talks.

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