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White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday said the Biden administration will continue talks aimed at forging a new Iran nuclear deal — despite federal authorities announcing this week that four Iranian intelligence operatives schemed to kidnap a US-based journalist and smuggle her to Iran in a bid to silence her criticism of the Islamic Republic.
Psaki said at her daily press briefing that “we will continue to pursue those talks, pursue the diplomatic path forward, which we think is in our interests and continues to be constructive.”
But Psaki said “we have never assessed Iran to be a good actor” and noted that President Biden recently ordered airstrikes against Iran-backed groups in Syria and Iraq that allegedly threatened US troops.
Federal prosecutors in New York revealed Tuesday that four Iranian agents allegedly plotted to abduct Brooklyn-based Voice of America commentator Masih Alinejad, possibly by loading her onto a speedboat destined for Venezuela.
The Biden administration previously said nuclear talks aren’t linked to the Islamic theocracy’s treatment of US citizens.
In May, Psaki said US efforts to free Americans detained in Iran are “separate” from negotiations to curb Iran’s nuclear program — as the US government denied an Iran state media report that the US would release $7 billion in Iranian assets in exchange for the release of four Americans.
Many Democrats in Congress are pushing Biden to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and US diplomats have been in Vienna this year for talks on how to resurrect that deal, which former President Donald Trump repudiated in 2018, arguing it did too little to constrain Iran.
Biden last month vowed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons “on my watch” as he hosted outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the White House, but critics argue that harsh Trump-era sanctions should not be lifted.
In January 2016, the Obama administration airlifted $400 million in cash to Iran and unfroze an additional $1.3 billion in assets as part of the multilateral nuclear deal.
The 2015 deal was brokered by then-Secretary of State John Kerry, who now serves as Biden’s global warming envoy.
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