The Biden administration has spoken with European allies and Israel about a potential interim deal with Iran that would give the Islamic Republic some sanctions relief in exchange for a freeze of some aspects of its civilian nuclear program, Axios reported Monday.
The report cited unnamed Israeli officials and Western diplomats and said the idea would be to get Iran to stop enriching uranium at 60% in exchange for some sanctions relief. The 60% enrichment is the highest level Iran has ever achieved, but it is still below the 90% needed for weapons-grade uranium. The Pentagon acknowledged in its new Nuclear Posture Review that Iran is not trying to build a nuclear weapon.
Axios previously reported that Israel told the Biden administration that Iran enriching over 60% could trigger an Israeli attack. Israeli pressure and threats are why Iran is enriching at 60%, as Tehran took that step in response to an Israeli covert attack on Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility in April 2021. Before that, Iran started 20% enrichment over the Israeli assassination of Iranian scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in November 2020.
Sources told Axios that the Biden administration began discussing the possible freeze-for-freeze approach in January and briefed Britain, France, Germany, and Israel on the idea in February. The report said Iran was aware of the proposal and so far rejected it, but it’s not clear if there’s been any real negotiations or offers yet.
In recent months, the Biden administration has rejected diplomacy with Iran and increased sanctions on the country. US officials have repeatedly said attempting to return to the Iran nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, was not a priority, and President Biden declared the agreement was “dead” in November. US and Israeli officials have also stepped up their threats against Iran, and tensions in the region are soaring.