By Phil Stewart
ASPEN, Colorado, July 21 (Reuters) – Britain’s spy chief said on Thursday he was skeptical that Iran‘s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei actually wants to revive a nuclear deal with world powers but he added that Tehran won’t want to end the talks either.
Richard Moore, chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) known as MI6, said he still believed that reviving the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement was the best way to constrain Iran‘s nuclear program.
Under the deal, Iran had limited its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions.
“I’m not convinced we’re going to get there … I don’t think the Supreme Leader of Iran wants to cut a deal,” Moore told the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
Still, Moore cautioned: “The Iranians won’t want to end the talks either so they could run on for a bit.“
Since former President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the deal and re-imposed sanctions against Tehran in 2018, Iran has breached many of the deal’s limits on its nuclear activities. It is enriching uranium to close to weapons-grade.
Western powers warn Iran is getting closer to being able to sprint towards making a nuclear bomb. Iran denies they want to do that.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has sought to revive the agreement. But U.S., British and French diplomats have all placed the onus on Iran for the failure to bring back the nuclear agreement after more than a year of negotiations.
“I think the deal is absolutely on the table. And the European powers and the (U.S.) administration here are very clear on that. And I don’t think that the Chinese and Russians, on this issue, would block it. But I don’t think the Iranians want it,” Moore said.
Iran, however, has characterized the talks as positive and has blamed the United States for failing to provide guarantees that a new U.S. administration would not again abandon the deal as Trump had done.
The pact seemed near revival in March but talks were thrown into disarray partly over whether the United States might remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which controls elite armed and intelligence forces that Washington accuses of a global terrorist campaign, from its Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list.
Biden’s administration has made clear it has no plan to drop the IRGC from the list, a step that would have limited practical effect but would anger many U.S. lawmakers.
(Reporting by Phil Stewart; editing by Diane Craft)