WASHINGTON – Should diplomacy with Tehran fail, the United States is prepared to take "additional measures" to restrict Iran's ability to produce revenue, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said Thursday, in a notable shift in rhetoric and public posture from the White House.
"Given the ongoing advances in Iran's nuclear program, the President has asked his team to be prepared in the event that diplomacy fails, and we must turn to other options that require preparations," Psaki said.
"If diplomacy cannot get on track soon, and if Iran's nuclear program continues to accelerate, then we will have no choice but to take additional measures to further restrict Iran's revenue-producing sectors."
Also on Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters that it will take a few days to judge whether Iran is showing flexibility in talks about Tehran and Washington resuming compliance with the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.
"It will probably (be) another couple of days until we have sense of where the Iranians are in the context of the restart of this round and ... the flexibility that they may or may not be willing to show," Price said.
Asked if Iran might be playing for time in the talks and seeking to exploit U.S. weakness, he said: "I can assure you that if the Iranian regime suspects the United States of weakness, they will be sorely surprised."
U.S. Special envoy for Iran Robert Malley told Al Jazeera TV on Thursday that the United States was ready to hold direct negotiations with the Iranians on Tehran's nuclear program, calling it the best solution to such a complicated issue.
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Malley added that Iran did not present constructive proposals during previous negotiations and even retracted compromises it had made before.
Earlier Thursday, Iran's top negotiator said he was sticking to positions Tehran set out when nuclear talks broke off last week, while European Union and Russian envoys called for more urgency as world powers resumed negotiations in Vienna.
The indirect U.S.-Iranian talks in Vienna, in which other diplomats from the remaining parties to a now tattered 2015 deal - France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China - shuttle between them because Tehran refuses direct contact with Washington, aim to get both sides to resume full compliance with the accord.
However, last week's discussions broke off with European and U.S. officials voicing dismay at sweeping demands by Iran's new, hardline government under anti-Western President Ebrahim Raisi, whose June election caused a five-month hiatus in the talks.
Western officials have said Iran has abandoned many compromises it had made in the previous six rounds of talks, pocketed those made by others, and demanded more last week.