US reacts to Iran’s nuclear activities and detainee release amid growing tensions

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Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, stated on Tuesday that he could not verify a report suggesting that Iran had slowed its progress in accumulating enriched uranium with near-weapons-grade capabilities. However, he expressed that the United States would welcome any measures taken by Iran to de-escalate its “growing nuclear threat.”

Blinken clarified to reporters that Iran’s decision to transfer US detainees to house arrest was unrelated to any other aspect of US policy towards Iran. He mentioned that the US approach toward Iran consists of a combination of deterrence, pressure, and diplomacy.

Reports revealed that Iran might release five detained US citizens as part of an agreement to release $6 billion of Iranian funds in South Korea. Iran had allowed four detainees to transition from prison to house arrest, with one already being under home confinement.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Iran had significantly slowed its accumulation of near-weapons-grade enriched uranium and had diluted some of its stockpile. These actions could potentially ease tensions with the US and revive broader discussions concerning Iran’s nuclear program.

Secretary of State Blinken referred to the slowing of Iran’s nuclear activities and the release of detainees to house arrest as separate matters. He mentioned that if Iran takes steps to deescalate its nuclear threat, it would be welcomed, alluding to the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal during the presidency of Donald Trump in 2018.

Under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran had agreed to limit its nuclear program to hinder its capability to develop nuclear weapons. In exchange, sanctions from the US, the European Union, and the United Nations were lifted. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons.

Regarding the reported slowdown and detainee release, Blinken emphasized their lack of connection. He highlighted that efforts to bring home wrongfully detained individuals in Iran were a separate endeavor he aimed to successfully conclude.

The recent deal for detainees excluded Shahab Dalili, a 60-year-old US permanent resident imprisoned in Iran since 2016. His family had requested that the Biden administration include him in the agreement or at least acknowledge his wrongful detainment. Dalili began a hunger strike in Iran’s Evin prison, where he is held.

The US State Department determined wrongful detainment based on the belief that the charges are politically motivated and false. Blinken underscored that the agreement covered individuals designated as wrongfully detained, and he confirmed that Washington would continue to assess other cases.

Blinken noted, “Regarding individual cases, I can’t discuss them due to privacy reasons. But I can say that as a policy matter, we consistently review whether any particular individual, whether they are an American citizen or a lawful permanent resident incarcerated in another country, is wrongfully detained.”