U.S.'s Coons would back resuming Iran nuclear deal, with caveats

FILE PHOTO: A staff member removes the Iranian flag from the stage after a group picture with foreign ministers and representatives of the U.S., Iran, China, Russia, Britain, Germany, France and the European Union during the Iran nuclear talks at the Vienna International Center in Vienna, Austria July 14, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Chris Coons, a possible secretary of state in a Biden administration, said on Friday he would only support returning to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal if there were a path to limit Tehran’s missile program and support for regional proxies.

The agreement, which U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned in May 2018 and restored related U.S. sanctions, sought to limit Iran’s nuclear program to prevent it from developing atomic weapons in return for the easing of economic sanctions.

It did not, however, restrict Iran’s ballistic missile program nor Iranian support for militias in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Syria, which the United States regards as destabilizing to the Middle East and undercutting U.S. partners in the region.

Asked if he would support a return to the pact, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Coons, a Delaware Democrat, told Reuters: “not without some clear path towards addressing the missile program and support for proxies.”

President-elect Joe Biden, who will take office on Jan. 20, has said he would rejoin the deal if Iran first resumed strict compliance and would work with allies “to strengthen and extend it, while more effectively pushing back against Iran’s other destabilizing activities.”

Stressing he was speaking for himself, Coons said Washington would “need a path forward for limits on their missile program and their support for proxies before I would support reentering the JCPOA. These need to happen at the same time.”

Returning to the deal would be complicated, and sketching out a way to a further agreement on restraining Iran’s missile and regional activities would likely be even harder, not least because Iran is sure to demand something in return — if it were even willing to consider such constraints.

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