Protesters stand in front of a wall of the former US embassy with anti-US murals during the 42nd anniversary of the US expulsion from Iran, in Tehran, Iran November 4, 2021.

Majid Asgaripour | WANA News Agency | via Reuters

WASHINGTON — Signatories to the Iran nuclear deal have only “weeks” left to strike a deal and usher in a mutual return to compliance with the deal, a senior State Department official said Monday.

“We are in the home stretch because, as we have been saying for some time, this cannot go on forever because of Iran’s nuclear advance,” said the official, who spoke under the on condition of anonymity in order to share certain details of the negotiations.

The official said the US was not imposing an “artificial deadline” or “ultimatum”.

“The Iranians have known for some time that we are coming at the last moment, after which we will not be able to return to the JCPOA because it will no longer hold the value we negotiated,” the official said. , adding that the negotiations had been going on for about 10 months.

Last year, signatories to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, began the first of what would become eight all-day rounds of negotiations to relaunch the agreement at several hotels in Vienna.

The 2015 JCPOA, brokered in part by the Obama administration, lifted sanctions on Iran that had crippled its economy and halved its oil exports. Alongside the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and China ⁠were also signatories to the agreement.

The other participants in the agreement are also called the P5+1.

Iran has agreed to dismantle part of its nuclear program and open its facilities to closer international inspections in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

In 2018, then-President Donald Trump kept a campaign promise and unilaterally pulled the US out of the JCPOA, calling it “the worst deal ever”. Trump also reintroduced sanctions against Tehran that had previously been lifted.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington have reached new heights under the Trump administration and culminated in a deadly US strike against Iran’s military leader.

The January 2 strike that killed General Qasem Soleimani, a key military figure in Iranian and Middle Eastern politics, followed a series of attacks on locations that housed US and coalition forces, including the American Embassy in Baghdad.

In the wake of Soleimani’s death, Iran launched at least a dozen missiles from its territory on Jan. 7 at two military bases in Iraq that house US troops and coalition forces.

Iranian mourners gather during the final stage of the funeral processions for slain General Qasem Soleimani, in his hometown of Kerman on January 7, 2020.

Atta Kenare | AFP | Getty Images

A day later, from the White House, Trump said Iran appeared to be “walking away” and warned Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

After Washington pulled out of the landmark nuclear deal, other pact signatories ⁠ struggled to keep the deal alive.

Since Trump’s decision to leave the deal, Tehran has increased its enrichment and storage of uranium well beyond the limits of the deal. Moreover, Western powers are concerned about Iran’s ambitious advances in nuclear research and development.

The Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign has hampered Iran’s already strained economy and curtailed oil exports, bringing tensions between Tehran and Washington to a boiling point.

The Biden administration has since sought to revert to the deal after talks broke down after the sixth round of negotiations in June.

The break came when Iran elected a new president, Ebrahim Raisi, to succeed Hassan Rouhani.

Presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi speaks during an election rally in Tehran, Iran, June 15, 2021.

Majid Asgaripur | WANA News Agency | Reuters

In June, Raisi ruled out a meeting with Biden, which the White House played down by saying the United States does not currently have diplomatic relations with Iran.

Raisi, who faces US personal sanctions for alleged human rights abuses, was expected to take a hardline approach during the talks in Vienna.

After nearly five months of stalled talks, the State Department announced in November that US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley would lead the US delegation to the seventh round of talks.