The Biden administration slammed Iran on Saturday for suggesting that the U.S. was delaying a proposed prisoner swap in order to force a quick resumption of talks for both nations to reenter the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Seyyed Abbas Araghchi said in a pair of tweets that the talks “must thus obviously await our new administration. This is what every democracy demands.” Iran recently elected a new president, Ebrahim Raisi, who won’t be sworn in until August.
“Keeping such an exchange hostage to political aims achieves neither,” said Aragchi, who is Iran’s chief negotiator at the Vienna talks. “TEN PRISONERS on all sides may be released TOMORROW if US&UK fulfill their part of deal.”
Iran says that the U.S. and Great Britain’s insistence on an immediate resumption of the talks is holding the prisoner deal “hostage.” The U.S. called that claim “outrageous” and “cruel.” Indeed, Araghchi’s comments about releasing the hostages “tomorrow” are an attempt to “deflect blame for the current impasse” in reaching a deal.
In response to Aragchi’s remarks, State Department spokesman Ned Price categorically rejected the claim, denied there was already an agreement on a swap, and said the US was prepared to continue talks on prisoners even while waiting for the resumption of the nuclear negotiations.
“These comments are an outrageous effort to deflect blame for the current impasse on a potential mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA,” Price said. “We stand ready to return to Vienna to complete work on a mutual return to the JCPOA once Iran has made the necessary decisions.”
Price called Aragchi’s reference to the possible imminent release of 10 prisoners on all sides “just another cruel effort to raise the hopes of their families.”
“If Iran were truly interested in making a humanitarian gesture, it would simply release the detainees immediately,” he said.
Price stated the obvious, that Iran could release the hostages with or without a deal.
“Araghchi speaks of us taking an agreement hostage when it is his government that has been unjustly detaining four innocent Americans for years,” the State Department added. “There is no agreed deal yet on the matter of the detainees. And if Iran were truly interested in making a humanitarian gesture, it would simply release the detainees immediately.”
It’s unclear at this point whether any agreement with Iran on its nuclear program could slow its drive to build a bomb. The Wall Street Journal points out that the massive increase in efficiency of Iran’s centrifuge technology means that Iran could enrich uranium to bomb-grade level — 90 percent — in a matter of days or weeks, not months.
Given Iran’s progress on centrifuges, machines which spin uranium into higher purities, European officials have proposed a new three-pronged approach to lengthen Iran’s breakout time. In addition to keeping advanced centrifuges in storage and under seal, they want Iran to rip out the electronic infrastructure it is currently using to run machines banned under the deal and reduce Iran’s capacity for producing new centrifuges at its assembly plants.
Iran has already indicated it will not accept the destruction of any more of its advanced centrifuges. This only shows that you can’t put the genie back in the bottle once it’s been set free. For Iran, there’s no going back. Once the Iranians learn process of building a bomb, they can’t unlearn it.
Only a total dismantling of its entire nuclear infrastructure will prevent Iran from joining the nuclear club.