The US is "now preparing equally for” scenarios in which the 2015 nuclear deal world powers struck with Iran is revived, as well as its possible dissolution, the State Department announced Wednesday.
The comments come as indirect bilateral talks with Iran to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) remain mired in a diplomatic impasse following over a year of negotiations.
State Department spokesman Ned Price maintained that while it is "very much an uncertain proposition" if the deal can be resurrected, time has not run out for it to provide meaningful limits on Iran's nuclear program.
The breakout time, or the time it would take for Iran to produce a nuclear weapon, "would be prolonged from where it is now," and the deal's inspections regime would enable "greater transparency" on the Islamic Republic's program, said Price.
Still, he acknowledged that the timeline for those benefits is not infinite, saying, "There will come a time when, on the basis of those technical assessments, a mutual return to compliance and the non-proliferation benefits it would convey would not, in fact, outweigh the implications of the advancements that Iran has been able to achieve."
"We are now preparing equally for either scenario: a scenario in which we have a mutual return to compliance" as well as another in which the deal is no longer tenable, Price told reporters.
"We are also preparing with our allies and partners for a scenario in which there is not a JCPOA, and we will have to turn to other tactics and other approaches to fulfill what is for us a commitment that President (Joe) Biden has made, that Iran, whether there is a JCPOA or whether there is not the JCPOA, must never, never, never be allowed to acquire a nuclear weapon," he added.
He did not elaborate on which tactics are under consideration.
Former US President Donald Trump unilaterally left the deal in 2018, defying warnings from the agreement's other participants -- China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK and the European Union.
Trump went on to pursue what he dubbed a "maximum pressure" campaign that included reimposing sanctions lifted under the agreement and implementing new ones, in a failed bid to bring Iran back to negotiations on a more comprehensive pact.
Instead, Tehran stepped back from its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA, including agreed upon curbs to the amount of fissile material it is allowed to possess and its nuclear enrichment limits.