By Arab News
By Maria Maalouf *
While campaigning ahead of last year’s US presidential election, Joe Biden made many suggestions that then-President Donald Trump had made a huge mistake by pulling America out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal signed between the P5+1 world powers and Iran three years after it was concluded in 2015.
Biden had doubts that Trump had done the right thing regarding Iran. The irony now is that members of his administration have also expressed doubts over whether Tehran intends to stop itself from gaining possession of nuclear weaponry.
In a TV appearance this week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “We still believe diplomacy is the best path forward for putting the nuclear program back in the box that (it) had been in under the agreement, the so-called JCPOA. But we were also looking at, as necessary, other options if Iran is not prepared to engage quickly in good faith to pick up where we left off in June.”
There are many problems with the statements made by Blinken. First, there is a great deal of contradiction between the way the Biden administration has expressed its doubts over Iran’s real intentions regarding its nuclear program and its strong desire to quickly resume the negotiations with Iran in Vienna. Second, the Biden White House seemingly lacks the courage to make clear-cut declarations about Iran cheating on every aspect of its nuclear program. A fair question is: If Biden and members of his national security team are critics of Iran’s nuclear policy, why have they accepted it as a serious negotiating partner?
There is little logic to what Biden and his team are saying on Iran — that all difficulties can be overcome by the supposition that engaging Tehran in negotiations will make it more responsible in its foreign policy and defense policy. Dangerously, there is still too much vagueness regarding the Biden administration’s policy toward Iran.
Another intelligent question that Biden has to answer very soon is why his administration is working to adhere to a previously signed agreement, while the Iranians themselves have confessed that they are cheating on its terms. Biden is surely not convinced that Iran will ever abide by any agreement to curb its lethal and disturbing nuclear strategy.
On the other hand, credit should be given to Trump for when his administration acted decisively once it was detected that Iran was advancing its nuclear capabilities through its enrichment of uranium.
Of utmost importance are the insinuations from Washington officials that they have other “alternatives” they will use to force Iran to fulfill its obligations toward any potential new nuclear accord it pens with the P5+1. Another perplexity with Biden’s approach toward Iran is the lack of any position of advantage Washington can claim over Tehran.
Most countries perceive the Biden administration to be scrambling to reach a bad agreement over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Neither Biden nor Blinken have presented the conditions whereby the ayatollahs will be held accountable for undermining global and regional stability by pushing for a non-peaceful nuclear program. Regrettably, Biden used the opportunity of his meeting with other world leaders at last weekend’s G20 Summit in Italy to sell his poor vision of a hasty nuclear deal with Iran.
Other questions are also crucial. How will these alternatives that Blinken has mentioned tackle Iran’s nuclear weapons program? Which countries will be in partnership with the US in invoking these so-called alternatives to force Iran to honor its nuclear obligations?
Biden keeps alleging that he inherited a bad Iran policy from his predecessor. However, there are no strategic gains for the West if Biden writes a book of lamentations over the inability to moderate Iran’s reckless nuclear pursuit.
Negotiations are based on the past experiences of the main participants when talking to each other. It is that simple. So far, the Biden administration has been all talk regarding its stance on Iran; it is yet to reveal how it will force Tehran to quit its hostile nuclear tactics and machinations.
To succeed, Biden must seize the opportunity to announce a brave policy with regards to Iran, depriving it of the ability to enrich uranium so that it can build an arsenal of nuclear weapons. When negotiating with Iran, the US must insist that Tehran open all of its nuclear sites to detailed scrutiny over what they are being used for. These examinations should discover every type of nuclear policy irregularity.
Finally, the negotiations should have a clear agenda and time frame. This will give Iran a complete list of duties it has to fulfill to be ranked as an honest member of the world’s community of nations. Any other negotiating style will do damage to global peace because of Iran’s pernicious policies.
- Maria Maalouf is a Lebanese journalist, broadcaster, publisher, and writer. She holds an MA in Political Sociology from the University of Lyon. Twitter: @bilarakib