One of the most serious national security threats the Biden Administration faces is Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. They are our self-declared enemy. On that they are unequivocal. They have made it clear they would go to great extremes to harm the United States of America economically, politically, and militarily.
This week, fulfilling a campaign promise, President Biden is seeking a path to reenter the very flawed Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In Vienna, talks are underway to find a way for the United States to do that very thing. There are no direct talks between the U.S. and Iran presently; the other signatories to the JCPOA are exercising shuttle diplomacy as Iranian and U.S. delegations meet in separate hotels.
But note: The JCPOA did not prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. It merely postponed Iran’s acquiring such weapons for ten years. Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is allowed to inspect Iranian sites to ensure compliance. However, there are two important caveats: The inspectors must give Iran advance notice of inspections, and they are not allowed to inspect Iranian military installations—the logical place for Iran to hide their research and development of the weapons. For signing this hollow agreement, Iran received billions of dollars in previously frozen assets, including pallets of cash provided by the Obama Administration. This agreement was geopolitical insanity on steroids.
The Iranian government abuses their own people with torture, imprisonment, and executions. They harass U.S. Navy vessels in international waters, and the ships of other countries. They interfere in the affairs of our allies in the Persian Gulf region—attempting to undermine the governments of Bahrain and other Gulf States. Using proxies which they arm and train, they launch numerous terrorist attacks in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, northern Africa, and (in a more covert way) literally around the world. They attempted an assassination in Washington, D.C. They are an ally of North Korea, a nation who is also a threat to world peace.
The JCPOA allows the world’s most dangerous country to eventually acquire the world’s most dangerous weapon. Iran’s chief strategic goal is to possess a nuclear weapon. They are well on the way to achieving that goal. United States officials estimate that the “breakout” time—the time necessary for Iran to assemble enough highly enriched uranium to assemble a nuclear weapon—is down to a few months.
While the international community vacillates and thereby enables Iran, the rogue nation routinely violates restrictions placed on them by the United Nations. For example, they have defiantly continued their development of ballistic missiles, the vehicle by which to launch a nuclear weapon—even though U.N. resolutions forbid it. Using the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA of 2015 as an excuse, they have increased the number of centrifuges in their nuclear program and have enriched uranium from 3.7 percent (allowed by the JCPOA) to 20 percent. Iran is now stockpiling enriched uranium. This in spite of the fact that Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia are still signed on to the agreement. The reaction of these other countries has largely been to criticize the U.S. for abandoning the agreement and to seek ways to get around the sanctions placed on Iran by the United States.
These sanctions (a policy of maximum pressure implemented by the previous U.S. Administration) have worked. The sanctions, combined with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and a refusal of corporations and countries to invest in Iran due to U.S. sanctions, have curtailed (though not stopped) Iran’s exportation of terror and have negatively impacted Iran’s military budget. Their economy is in dire straits. This is part of the reason Iran was quite willing to allow the international community to set up the talks in Vienna.
However, Iran has one precondition for talking directly with the United States and abiding by the nuclear agreement: The U.S. must lift all 1,600 sanctions imposed on Iran. As to the ongoing talks that would potentially make that possible, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price stated, “It is a welcome step; it is a constructive step. It is a potentially useful step.” Iran’s lead negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, said the initial talks are “on the right track.”
Here are some glaring questions that must be asked. If sanctions are working, why would we consider lifting those sanctions? Why would the world merely postpone Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon as opposed to forbidding that this should ever happen? Since Iran has cheated on the present JCPOA agreement, why would one expect that they would abide by any new agreements? How should the negotiators address verifiability in any new agreement? The JCPOA did not even address Iran’s ballistic missile program or its terroristic activities, even though many experts believed that the Obama Administration should have included such matters in the JCPOA. Why would the U.S. and its allies not include these matters in any new arrangement?
More questions: As reported by the Arms Control Association, why did the Biden Administration ease Trump-era restrictions on the movement of Iranian diplomats in the United States? Further, why did the Biden Administration withdraw a U.S. request by the Trump Administration that the pre-JCPOA sanctions be restored at the United Nations? Iran insists that billions of dollars in assets still frozen abroad be released and that the U.S. give its approval to an emergency loan to Iran by the International Monetary Fund. Will the United States agree to those conditions?
These are not rhetorical questions. They are questions that demand answers. The peace and security of the United States—indeed the peace and security of the world—depend on what happens in Vienna. As we engage with Iran, we must view that nation and its behaviors as they are—not as we wish them to be. The United States and the world must take a hard and realistic look at Iran, a harsh and brutal government that has thus far proven that it cannot be trusted.
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