Biden official says U.S. and Iran 'in the ballpark' of possible nuclear deal

The White House is ready for the talks to collapse.
President Joe Biden wearing sun glasses.

A senior White House official on Thursday said that the United States is "in the ballpark of a possible [nuclear] deal" with Iran, after former President Donald Trump withdrew from the plan in 2018.

The countries are on the eighth round of talks to revive the 2015 Obama-era nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Trump called it "the worst deal ever," before pulling out. More than 100 congressional Republicans earlier this month sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking the Biden administration to "pull out of the fruitless Vienna talks to re-enter the JCPOA."

White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk spoke about the possible deal during a Carnegie Endowment event. 

"We're in the ballpark of a possible deal, but again I'm not gonna put odds on this," he said. "There's a very good chance these talks collapse very soon ... We're ready for that."

The congressional Republicans in their letter urged Blinken to "instead strongly enforce existing sanctions against Iran, particularly with respect to the oil trade between Iran and the People's Republic of China (PRC)."

White House press secretary Jen Psaki last week blamed the Trump administration for creating "challenging circumstances" by withdrawing from the plan.

"Iran is much closer to developing the fissile materials they need," she said. "We have no transparency or visibility as we had when we were in the deal. There have been more attacks around the world on our allies and partners."

McGurk is confident that Iran will never have nuclear weapons.

"The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is something that'll keep anyone up at night, but I can assure you that it's never going to happen," he said. "One way or the other we think diplomacy is the best way to pursue that course."

On Tuesday, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said that Iran is 12-18 months away from creating a nuclear weapon.