By Dr Alon Ben-Meir
Words from various officials in the know suggest that, although President Biden stated that the Iran Nuclear deal is “dead,” the President would still like the 2015 deal to be revived. However, several obstacles must first be resolved.
This includes Iran’s demand that the US remove the IRGC from the terrorist list and that the IAEA close its probes into uranium traces found in three undisclosed locations. The US insists that Iran must drop these two demands as a prerequisite to reaching an agreement.
That said, Biden remains not entirely pessimistic about the prospect of reaching a deal given that the Iranian government continues to languish badly from the US’ crippling economic sanctions. Iran may not be able to quell the nearly three-month demonstration unless it eases the heavy economic burden from which the public is greatly suffering.
As a result, the Iranian government may drop the aforementioned two demands, and the deal can still be revived. That said, what might further complicate the resumption of negotiations with Iran is that the US is extremely active, along with its allies—especially Israel—in impeding the manufacturing of the drones Iran sells to Russia in large quantities. Moscow is using these killer drones to indiscriminately attack many targets in Ukraine, causing massive death and destruction.
Nevertheless, Biden is not yet rushing to bury the prospective deal.
The other reason behind Biden’s position is that he reiterated his commitment to prevent Iran from ever obtaining nuclear weapons on more than one occasion. In an interview on Israel’s Channel 12 on 13 July, President Biden was asked if he would use force to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He said, “if that was the last resort, yes.”
Biden wants to do everything possible not to reach a point that will compel him to attack many of Iran’s nuclear facilities—especially as the war in Ukraine continues to rage. Both the US and its allies do not want to start a potentially enormous conflagration with Iran, which could end up involving other countries in the region and bearing unpredictable consequences.
By stating that the Iran deal is “dead,” Biden is sending a clear message to Tehran: unless they are willing to reach an agreement, they leave him with no choice but to use force.
To navigate these complex issues and concerns, the Biden administration will certainly impose more sanctions and, along with Israel, sabotage and unleash cyber-attacks against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
He will likely take these measures to prevent Iran from reaching the breakout point, especially as Iran is increasing the production of uranium to 60 percent purity at both Natanz and Fordow (and potentially to the 90 percent purity needed to produce nuclear weapons).
Such a strategy will also keep Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu at bay, who vehemently opposes renewing the old deal and is more than eager to profoundly disrupt Iran’s nuclear weapon program, if not destroy it altogether.
Netanyahu knows, however, that Israel alone cannot undertake a major attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities without the US’ direct involvement. He will be wise to work lockstep with the Biden administration as the stakes are extremely high.
To be sure, I do not believe that Iran is on the verge of becoming the 10th nuclear power, largely because it is not in its interest to do so at this juncture. This is not only because it wants to prevent an American attack, which it deeply fears, but because of its deep concerns over the dangerously deteriorating economic conditions that threaten the regime.
No nuclear weapon can save Iran from its self-made explosive internal situation.
Dr Alon Ben-Meir, a retired professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University (NYU), taught courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies for over 20 years.