Military action against Iran, months after the United States had withdrawn troops from Afghanistan, is a distinct possibility.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday said that if Iran does not come back to the negotiating table next month he could not rule out military action against the Islamic nation.
“The Iranians have now said that they’re coming back to talks toward the end of November – we’ll see if they actually do, that’s going to be important,” the Secretary of State said when he spoke to CBS Face the Nation host Margaret Brennan.
“’We were also looking at, as necessary, other options if Iran is not prepared to engage quickly in good faith,” he said. “To pick up where we left off in June when these talks were interrupted by the change in government in Iran, and to see if we can get back to mutual compliance – both countries coming back into the agreement as quickly as possible.”
The host pushed Blinken, asking if other options would include military action against Iran.
“As we always say, every option is on the table,” he said from Rome as he is in Europe during the G20 Summit with President Biden.
‘Here in Rome, the president got together with Chancellor Merkel of Germany, with the U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with the French President Emmanuel Macron, and we are in very close coordination with our closest partners on dealing with this challenge posed by Iran’s nuclear program,” the secretary of state said. “And all of us are also working with Russia and China.”
He said, “We still believe diplomacy is the best path forward for putting the nuclear program back in the box it had been in under the agreement – the so-called JCPOA.”
“Iran, unfortunately, is moving forward aggressively with its program,” he said. “The time it would take for it to produce enough fissile material for one nuclear weapon is getting shorter and shorter.”
“The other thing that’s getting shorter is the runway we have where if we do get back into compliance with the agreement and Iran gets back in compliance, we actually recapture all of the benefits of the agreement,” the secretary of state said.
“Iran is learning enough, doing enough so that that’s starting to be a problem,” he said.
His interview came after Western leaders urged Iran to act in “good faith” in coming back to the negotiations for a new deal, Reuters reported.
The United States, Germany, France and Britain urged Iran on Saturday to resume compliance with a 2015 nuclear deal in order to “avoid a dangerous escalation”.
Leaders of the four countries, who are hoping to persuade Tehran to stop enriching uranium to near-weapons-grade levels, said they wanted a negotiated solution.
“This will only be possible if Iran changes course,” U.S. President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a joint statement.
“We call upon President (Ebrahim) Raisi to seize this opportunity and return to a good faith effort to conclude our negotiations as a matter of urgency. That is the only sure way to avoid a dangerous escalation, which is not in any country’s interest,” they said after meeting on the sidelines of a summit of the Group of 20 richest nations.
The four leaders met to discuss Iran while in Rome to attend the G20 summit.
The 2015 nuclear deal unravelled after then-U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from it in 2018, prompting Iran to breach various limits on uranium enrichment.
“We are counting on a return of Iran to the negotiating table. But the clock is ticking. Uranium enrichment is occurring in Iran and this deeply concerns us,” Merkel said on the sidelines of the G20 meeting.