As Iran vows to gradually kick its nuclear production back into gear, both options are being revisited, officials say, in case Iran carries through its declared nuclear plans. This coming week it is likely to have amassed more than 660 pounds of low-enriched uranium, the limit set in the 2015 pact.
The marginal move over the limits “might not be a big deal,’’ said Philip H. Gordon, a former State Department official now at the Council on Foreign Relations, “but exiting the nuclear deal is a big deal because it’s a slippery slope toward not having any of those constraints at all.”
But stopping those activities, with a military attack or the kind of complicated online sabotage that the United States and Israel conducted a decade ago, would carry huge risks. And this time, the element of surprise would be gone.
The State Department’s Iran coordinator, Brian Hook, is also in the gulf, trying to coordinate a response — and perhaps an opening for talks with Tehran — with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain, all among Iran’s greatest rivals. The State Department did not say whether he would go to Oman, which acted as the back channel for opening nuclear negotiations during the Obama administration.
Missing from any coalition, at least for now, are the Europeans, the Chinese and the Russians, all of whom participated in those negotiations and say that Mr. Trump created the current crisis by abandoning a nuclear accord that was working, even if imperfectly.
“Trump thinks that if he just turns the oil spigot off the Iranians, and bring crude oil revenue to near zero, the Iranians will fold negotiate a new deal,” one European official who was deeply involved in negotiating the agreement said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid alienating the administration. “It won’t work.”