State Dep’t ‘Willing to Entertain’ a ‘Practical’ Role for Russia in Potential Iran Deal


Russia’s governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mikhail Ulyanov is pictured following talks aimed at reviving the Iran nuclear deal in Vienna on December 27, 2021. (Photo by ALEX HALADA/AFP via Getty Images)

( – As the Biden administration struggles to renegotiate a deal intended to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, Democrats are divided on Russia’s role in those negotiations at the same time the United States is punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

« I don’t think Russia is at the table in a legitimate or honest way, » Democrat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) told Fox News on Wednesday evening. « I think they are looking for ways to get around the sanctions against them. And I think they’re looking for ways to have a market for their oil.

« And I think we have to be very careful in not negotiating against ourselves, especially with what Russia is doing with Ukraine. So, I think any negotiations with regard to an Iran deal will be quite difficult to accomplish in the near term, » Gillibrand said.

But earlier on Wednesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the administration still believes there is a « practical role » for Russia to play in any potential deal with Iran:

« Would it be a practical role for Russia to play the same role that it did in the JCPOA prior to the decision to withdraw from it — essentially to accept and to pay for the highly enriched uranium to get it out of Iran’s hands so that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon? » Price asked. « I think that’s a role we’d be willing to entertain. Yes. »

On Tuesday, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the Biden administration believes it is in U.S. national security interests to renew the Iran nuclear deal.

A reporter asked Sullivan what Russia brings to the table, « after they have rightfully been made a pariah on the world stage? »

« So, I can describe to you what happened with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action back in 2015, » Sullivan said.

« One of the key roles that Russia played in the implementation of that deal was that Russia actually accepted the enriched uranium from Iran so that Iran’s stockpile — stockpile stayed below 300 kilograms total, meaning that stockpile was so small that Iran could not swiftly break out to a nuclear weapon. That is a key part of how we ensured that Iran’s nuclear program was in a box.

« Now, we don’t have to rely on any given country for any particular element of the deal, but that is a role that Russia played in the past — a practical role that didn’t have necessarily political significance but did have that practical significance. »

Russia has the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons and has even threatened to use them in its war against Ukraine.

Sen. Gillibrand told Fox News’s Bret Baier on Wednesday it’s not clear if a Russian cyber-attack on the United States would amount to a declaration of war.

« We are trying very hard, Bret, to avoid the start of World War III, because, if and when that ever happens, that will result in the loss of millions of lives. And we are trying everything we can to help Ukraine push back Russia’s ambitions and to win that war on the ground. »

As for the Iran nuclear deal, spokesman Ned Price said on Wednesday, « We are not there yet. »

« This is something that, in terms of a mutual return to compliance, we’ve seen the significant progress that had been achieved in recent weeks. But as you’ve heard from us in recent days, an agreement is neither imminent nor certain.

“We are preparing for both scenarios. That is to say, a scenario in which we have a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA and in which the original members of the JCPOA – the P5+1 – would be involved in that very arrangement that would once again reimpose stringent, verifiable, permanent limits on Iran’s ability to ever obtain and obtain a nuclear weapon; and a scenario in which we do not have a JCPOA but we are – in which we will be equally committed to the President’s commitment that Iran will never be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon. »

The P5+1, the parties involved in the JCPOA talks, includes Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, the United States and Germany.

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