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The US confronts Iran with protests, Ukraine and nuclear enrichment

US intelligence officials assessed that the deal’s revival was unpopular among Iranian conservatives and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which directs the military side of the nuclear program, as well as among many American critics of the deal. The Iranians had unsuccessfully sought a pledge that the United States would never again unilaterally withdraw from the deal. And they knew that most of the nuclear fuel Iran had stockpiled in response to Mr Trump’s decision would have to be shipped out of the country once they re-entered the deal.

Then came the street protests and a deal with Russia that essentially enabled Iran, along with Belarus, to support the Russian invasion.

“The regime has made a consistent series of decisions that are increasingly cutting it off from both its people and much of the international community — including European countries that spent most of the Trump years trying to save the nuclear deal,” he said Robert Malley, the State Department’s special envoy for the Iran talks said Tuesday.

Mr Malley was usually more optimistic about the chances of a diplomatic solution, but his view has clearly changed. “Iran turned its back on a nuclear deal that was within reach,” he said, adding that the country’s government “failed” to engage with the International Atomic Energy Agency as they received more visits and data to locations where nuclear material had been discovered. Iran then announced plans for new nuclear production after the agency issued a resolution condemning the lack of cooperation.

The result was “a series of vicious circles,” Mr Malley said. “The repression fuels further protests. The protests trigger further repression. The alliance with Russia only further isolates Iran, leading it to double down on that alliance as there is no other partner.”

Of greatest concern to Israel and many in the United States was Iran’s announcement that, following repeated cyber and physical attacks on the Natanz, it would begin enriching nuclear fuel to 60 percent at Fordow, the facility it built in a mountain on a Military base had been built place of nuclear enrichment. During the 2013-2015 nuclear negotiations, the Obama administration attempted to shut down the Fordo site. Chief negotiator Wendy Sherman, now deputy secretary of state, said at the time that failure to do so was among her biggest disappointments — even though the deal specifically rules out the kind of nuclear activities the Iranians recently said they would conduct there .

The question now is whether the more restrictive new government Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to form in Israel will push for an attack on the facility, which would be difficult to destroy with anything but the largest bunker-busting bombs. Both the United States and Israel have trained to go on strike, and Mr Netanyahu nearly called one when he was last prime minister.

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