Malley, who has led more than a year of indirect talks with Iran in Vienna, nonetheless told lawmakers that President Joe Biden’s administration still supported the 2015 nuclear accord and was ready to lift sanctions if it secures an agreement.
“As of today the odds of a successful negotiation are lower than the odds of failure and that is because of excessive Iranian demands to which we will not succumb,” Malley told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
He said the United States would reject “demands that go beyond the scope of the JCPOA,” using the official name for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
“We are fully prepared to live with and confront that reality if that is Iran’s choice,” Malley added.
He was likely referring to demands to remove a terrorism blacklisting of the Iran’s Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), a step rejected by Biden and bitterly opposed by many in Congress.
Iranian officials have stressed the IRGC is a national army and no one can blacklist a national army as a terrorist entity.
But Malley made clear that Biden did not support military action — an option loudly mulled by Israel, which is suspected in a shadowy campaign of assassination against Iranian nuclear scientists.
“All options are on the table,” Malley noted, while adding that military action would only “set back” Iran’s nuclear program.
Referring to the US history of war in the Middle East, Malley stated, “We know that it costs.”
“But let’s leave it at this — the only solution here is a diplomatic one,” he continued.
Iran has repeatedly warned that any mistake by the US and Israel will be met with Tehran’s crushing response. Iranian officials have also stressed the country reserves the right to respond to any adventurism by the United States and Israel.
Iran insists that the nuclear talks must lead to the removal of all American sanctions that were imposed against Tehran following Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the landmark agreement in May 2018. Tehran has also demanded credible guarantees that Washington will not abandon the deal again.