Secretary of State Antony Blinken and allied officials are contemplating military options to counter Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program as American hopes of renewing the 2015 nuclear accord wither. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, left, accompanied by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyanin, right, speaks at a joint news conference at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool) Andrew Harnik/AP

‘Moments when nations must use force’: US and allies mull military options as Iran nuclear talks fade

Joel Gehrke October 13, 05:11 PM October 13, 05:30 PM

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and allied officials are contemplating military options to counter Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program as American hopes of renewing the 2015 nuclear accord wither.

“We are discussing this among ourselves, and we will look at every option to deal with the challenge posed by Iran,” Blinken said alongside Foreign Minister Yair Lapid of Israel and Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates. “We continue to believe that diplomacy is the most effective way to do that, but it takes two to engage in diplomacy, and we’ve not seen from Iran a willingness to do that at this point.”

President Joe Biden’s administration has been attempting to orchestrate a joint return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, but Iranian officials have refused to return to Vienna for a seventh round of “indirect talks” as they stonewall nuclear watchdogs from the United Nations. That dynamic spurred the celebrants of the first anniversary of the Abraham Accords to focus on the Iranian threat that drew Israeli and Gulf Arab officials together.

“Iran is becoming a nuclear threshold country,” Lapid said. “Secretary of State Blinken and I are sons of Holocaust survivors. We know there are moments when nations must use force to protect the world from evil. If a terror regime is going to acquire a nuclear weapon, we must act. We must make clear that the civilized world won’t allow it.”


State Department special envoy Rob Malley, the American point man for the nuclear negotiations, struck a pessimistic note in a separate broadcast. “Iran is giving us its answer by what it’s doing and not doing every day, and we need to take that into account,” Malley said during a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace forum.

He also acknowledged uncertainty about whether Iranian officials have ever had any “good faith” interest in renewing the 2015 agreement.

“Our assessment at the time was that we were making real progress,” he said. “Now, two big caveats: One, were we reading the Iranians correctly, even then? And two, we now have a different team, different leadership with a different president, that is clearly stating that it wants to do things differently.”

Those public signals set the diplomatic context for International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Grossi’s trip to Washington next week. He is scheduled to brief the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Iran’s recalcitrance. Yet Malley underscored his frustration with former President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the pact in 2018 — “We didn’t need to be here” — and reiterated that the administration remains open to continuing negotiations.

“I heard Malley continue to speak to the Iranians,” said Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the White House National Security Council’s lead official for countering the Iranian nuclear program under Trump. “At this point, all I can see is posturing for the Iranians to see if they can’t coax progress in Vienna in the next round of indirect talks.”

Lapid implied that saber-rattling might have diplomatic value, saying, “Sometimes the world has to show its hand in order to make sure Iran understands the consequences of running to become a threshold country. We’re not going to allow this to happen, and I think everybody in this room share this sentiment, and we are discussing how to make sure this will never happen.”


Blinken concurred: “We’re united in the proposition that Iran cannot be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon, and President Biden is committed to that proposition. We believe that the diplomatic path is the most effective way to ensure that that doesn’t happen.”

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