Biden officials warn to look to ‘other options’ if diplomacy fails as nuclear talks resume in Vienna

As negotiations resumed in Vienna, Austria, the administration also confirmed that it will send an interagency delegation to the United Arab Emirates as it seeks to strengthen the enforcement of sanctions against Iran. The move comes as Tehran continues to develop its nuclear program and negotiations to salvage the deal have so far failed.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday he was “deeply concerned about the actions of the Iranian government in recent months, both its continued provocations and its lack of constructive diplomatic engagement.”

Speaking alongside Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz in Washington, Austin pledged to “work closely with all of our partners across the region, including Israel first and foremost, to ensure that we work together to make in the face of Iranian threats “.

“We will defend ourselves, we will defend our friends and we will defend our interests,” he said.

“The president has made it clear that if diplomacy fails, we are prepared to look to other options,” Austin said.

The administration did not specifically outline what other measures it is considering should diplomatic efforts fail, but Secretary of State Antony Blinken did not explicitly rule out military options when speaking to the alongside his Israeli counterpart in October.

Gantz, who also met with Blinken on Thursday, said he hoped to “deepen our dialogue and cooperation vis-à-vis Iran, including matters of joint military preparation to deal with Iran and for stop regional aggression and nuclear restoration “.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Thursday that “if diplomacy cannot start quickly and Iran’s nuclear program continues to accelerate, we will have no choice but to take further measures to further restrict Iran’s income-producing sectors. ” She did not give details of these measures.

Last week, US and EU officials expressed concern and frustration with Iran’s negotiating position, saying the Iranian government’s new radical negotiators had sought to undo progress made in all six rounds. from previous discussions. Talks, initially suspended last Friday, resumed Thursday.

The State Department said, however, that the United States – which withdrew from the deal under the Trump administration and is not negotiating directly with Iran – will only return to Vienna this weekend.

Delegation to be sent to UAE

Amid failed diplomatic efforts to revive the joint comprehensive plan of action, administration officials confirmed on Thursday that the United States is sending an interagency delegation, headed by the senior official of the department’s office of foreign asset control. of the Treasury, to the United Arab Emirates as they move. strengthen the application of sanctions against Iran.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the delegation would “focus on engaging with the private sector and key UAE government officials to discuss private sector companies and financial institutions that facilitate disrespect for Iranian trade that crosses or in any way affects the United Arab Emirates. “

Price said there would be “delegations to other partner countries in the coming weeks”, and he refuted the idea that the Biden administration had ever “looked away in terms of the application of sanctions” .

“As new sanctions are applied, as bad actors try to circumvent the sanctions, we must always adapt and strengthen our application of the sanctions to be one step ahead of those who would seek to circumvent them,” he said. he declares.

China, which is a party to the Iran nuclear deal, is the largest importer of Iranian oil, despite US sanctions.

Price said there had been discussions with Chinese officials, “including at the highest levels, regarding their compliance with US and international sanctions on Iran’s energy sector.”

“They understand our position on this matter. We will continue to have these discussions in a diplomatic context with them,” he said.

A senior State Department official told reporters over the weekend that China, as well as Russia, share U.S. and European concerns over Iran’s growing non-compliance with the deal and how Iranian government negotiators addressed the talks last week in Vienna.

The official said they would not speak on behalf of these two countries, but added that “it is fair to say that they have also been quite baffled by the extent to which Iran has reneged on its own compromises. and then doubled down on the request he made of us and others. “

This story and title was updated with additional development on Thursday.

CNN’s Ellie Kaufman and Nikki Carvajal contributed to this report.

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