By Arshad Mohammed and Humeyra Pamuk
WASHINGTON, Jan 19 (Reuters) – The United States does not face a quick decision on whether to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal abandoned by U.S. President Donald Trump, two of President-elect Joe Biden’s top national security nominees said on Tuesday.
Biden, who takes office on Wednesday, has said that if Tehran resumed strict compliance with the 2015 agreement – under which Iran restrained its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions – Washington would too.
“We are a long way from there,” Antony Blinken, Biden’s choice for secretary of state, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, saying the Democratic president-elect would need to see what Iran actually did to resume complying with the pact.
“We would then have to evaluate whether they were actually making good if they say they are coming back into compliance with their obligations, and then we would take it from there,” he added, saying Biden’s ultimate aim would be a deal that also limited Iran’s missile program and support for regional proxies.
Trump abandoned the nuclear deal in 2018 and Iran in return has gradually breached its key limits, building up its stockpile of low enriched uranium, enriching uranium to higher levels of purity and installing centrifuges in ways barred by the deal.
As a result, Blinken said public reporting indicated the time it would take Iran to make enough fissile material for a single nuclear weapon had fallen to three or four months from over a year under the deal.
Speaking earlier at her own confirmation hearing, Biden’s choice for director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, also suggested a decision to return to the pact was not imminent.
“(Biden) has indicated that if Iran were to come back into compliance, that he would direct that we do so as well. And I think, frankly, that we are a long ways from that,” she said.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Grant McCool and Peter Cooney)