As Iran and the world powers prepare to resume talks next week over renewing the nuclear deal, the US and its allies are already discussing a list of "Plan B" options in the event of a collapse, Western diplomats, former US officials and experts say.
With the chances of success in Vienna's seemingly distant negotiations and Iran's opposition to UN nuclear inspectors, US and European officials face a daunting task - from tight sanctions to possible military action - as Iran's nuclear program progresses to a dangerous zone. .
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said last month the US was "ready to turn to alternatives" if negotiations failed, and Israel made it clear it was ready to take military action if necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
"There are a lot of consequences for all of this being postponed. I just don't see how this comes to a happy conclusion," said a former U.S. official. we are well aware of these conversations.
According to European diplomats, former US officials and experts, possible options include:
Urging China to ban oil imports from Iran.
Increasing sanctions, which include targeting oil sales in China.
Pursuing a temporary nuclear deal with little ambition.
Secret operations unveiled Iran's nuclear program are unveiled.
Ordering military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities or supporting Israel's military action.
If the dialogue in Vienna fails, the situation could be similar to the tense situation between the US and Iran ahead of the 2015 nuclear deal, in which Israel seriously considered a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities and Washington and Europe imposed severe sanctions on Tehran. former US officials. say.
But Iran's nuclear program has improved considerably over the past 10 years, giving Washington little respite to alleviate the problem, former US officials have said. Iran has enriched about 40 kilograms of uranium to 60 percent purity, close to the 90 percent required for nuclear weapons, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, the UN watchdog.
Experts say Iran has a few weeks to two months left to build enough nuclear weapons. While Iran was following the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration, the rest period was estimated a year.
"We are in a different place now than we were in mid-late 2010s," said Eric Brewer, a former US chief of staff who worked on the nuclear proliferation of the Trump administration and the Obama administration.
The US and European allies also have less negotiating power than they had during the Obama administration, when sanctions imposed sanctions on Iran and for fear of further sanctions gave Western diplomats significant powers. But the 2015 agreement has failed to provide Iran with the economic development it had hoped for, and the threat of further sanctions weighs less now, as the Iranian leadership believes the country is facing the worst of US actions, current and former US officials have said.
"Our carrots are not very tasty and our sticks are not very sharp now," said a former U.S. diplomat who specializes in diplomatic relations, working on Iranian policy.
The 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, reduced sanctions on Iran to reverse stricter nuclear deterrent to prevent Tehran from developing atomic weapons. President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the 2018 agreement, reversed sanctions and introduced hundreds of new sanctions.
President Joe Biden has vowed to return the US to the agreement if Iran returns to its compliance with its nuclear provisions, and talks appear to be improving this year. But negotiations came to an end after a powerful cleric, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected president of Iran in June, with the new government promoting a more aggressive state than its predecessors and naming new negotiators who seemed reluctant to back down.