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Blinken talked about China and the Iran nuclear deal at end of year news conference


There's a lot on Secretary of State Antony Blinken's plate these days. The U.S. is trying to persuade Russia not to reinvade Ukraine. It's trying to lower tensions with China over Taiwan and convince Iran to get back into a nuclear deal that the Trump administration left. Blinken touched on these issues at his end-of-year news conference today, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: With so many crises around the world, Secretary Blinken says it's important to have allies and partners, and he says he's spent a lot of time traveling and on the phone this year to rebuild relations damaged during the Trump era.


ANTONY BLINKEN: We're much more aligned with our allies and partners now than we were a year ago on nearly every issue, including Russia's aggression toward Ukraine and its neighbors, Iran's nuclear program and China's efforts to challenge the rules-based international order.

KELEMEN: One early goal was to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, but U.S. officials have been warning that Iran is making advances to its nuclear program that will soon make the deal a, quote, "corpse that cannot be revived." Blinken wouldn't say how long he will keep talks going, blaming the Trump administration for this crisis.


BLINKEN: Now, we are where we are because of what I consider to be one of the worst decisions made in American foreign policy in the last decade, and that was getting out of the Iran nuclear agreement, the JCPOA, an agreement that had put Iran's nuclear program in a box.

AARON DAVID MILLER: 2021 was largely a year of cleaning up old messes.

KELEMEN: That's Aaron David Miller of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He gives the Biden team credit for restarting negotiations with Iran, repairing relations with NATO and rejoining the Paris climate accord.

MILLER: In addition to cleaning up old messes, Biden also created a couple new ones.

KELEMEN: Biden angered America's oldest ally, France, by forming a security partnership with the U.K. and Australia, which cancelled the big arms deal with the French. An even bigger mess, Miller says, was in Afghanistan, where there were images in August of desperate Afghans clinging to planes as the U.S. evacuated tens of thousands of people following the Taliban takeover.

MILLER: It did raise serious questions about the administration's competency and credibility and whether or not it could basically deliver on commitments that it had made to its allies. Getting out of lost wars is never an easy enterprise. This is going to go down, I think, as a permanent stain on a policy that I think was directed toward the right goal.

KELEMEN: Secretary Blinken has ordered a review to draw lessons from Afghanistan, but he says he's focused on the next crisis there.


BLINKEN: We're very conscious of the fact that there is an incredibly difficult humanitarian situation right now, one that could get worse as winter sets in.

KELEMEN: Aid workers say that U.S. sanctions are hobbling their efforts. Blinken says the U.S. is trying to find ways to aid Afghans without benefiting the Taliban.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANDERSON .PAAK SONG, "TWILIGHT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.