Biden administration cannot return to Iran deal – JINSA
By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
The Gemunder Center’s Iran Policy Project of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) released a report on Wednesday arguing that “simply abiding by the letter of the JCPOA would leave Iran with too advanced a nuclear program for the United States to accept and too many economic constraints for Tehran to abide.”
The new US administration of President Joe Biden came into office hoping to reduce tensions with Iran and possibly reverse many of the Trump administration’s policies in the Middle East. The Biden administration has listened keenly to Israel’s concerns.
JINSA president and CEO Dr. Michael Makovsky argued Wednesday that “Right now Washington and Tehran are arguing over who should take the first step to reenter the JCPOA, but that may be the smallest of the many hurdles to reviving the nuclear agreement.”
He notes that it may not be possible to ever return to the JCPOA as it was pre-2018 without damaging US interests. “Despite Tehran’s adamancy that it can easily and quickly walk back all its violations, its work on newer centrifuges and construction of new facilities has already irreversibly advanced its nuclear program beyond the four corners of the JCPOA,” he says.
The new report warns against Washington trying to get back to a nuclear deal by giving up too many sanctions, in exchange for too few nuclear concessions from Tehran. “Thus, the first step in realizing the Biden’s Administration’s oft-stated desire to pursue a more comprehensive agreement should be to recognize there is no returning to the JCPOA,” the report argues.
In recent weeks, Iran has sought to put tougher restrictions on International Atomic Energy Commission inspections – and Iran has been using advanced centrifuges at its Natanz and Fordow facilities, according to reports. The IAEA has expressed concern that the Islamic Republic has undeclared nuclear material. This has raised alarm bells because Iran eschewed meeting with the US in Europe and is playing hardball, demanding that America lift sanctions.
Thanks to Israel’s seizure of Iranian nuclear archives in 2018, we now also know much more about how Iran has been acting in bad faith all along and never fully complied with the original agreement. Tehran returning to the JCPOA would mean leaving these issues unaddressed, and therefore, its nuclear progress would be under even fewer restraints than under the original deal.
“When you add in Iran’s concerted counter-pressure campaign to extract US concessions and browbeat us back into the deal, it turns out that what Iran is demanding is more for less: more nuclear program for less US sanctions,” Makovsky says. “Given this, the best path toward preventing a nuclear Iran is to go around, not through, the JCPOA.”
This important report by JINSA has many insights into the complexities facing the White House.
“Though the Biden and Rouhani administrations ostensibly agree on a mutual return to the deal, there is the sticking point of how to coordinate or sequence these moves – no small question, given that each side risks sacrificing its leverage over the other by rushing back into JCPOA compliance,” it notes.
“This issue of leverage highlights another complicating factor, namely Iran’s consistent efforts to try to extract concessions from the United States.”
The report, around 6,000 words and 20 pages long, goes into considerable detail on the technical aspects of how Iran is advancing toward a nuclear weapon. The Islamic Republic has made several important advances that are hard to reverse, as it has moved to break its agreements under the 2015 nuclear deal.
“While Iran technically can uninstall these machines and their associated infrastructure, it will be impossible to uninstall the invaluable learning experience its scientists have gained from manufacturing these newer models, testing them, assembling them in cascades and feeding them with uranium.”
The important highlights of the report illustrate how many complex issues are involved. A nuclear weapons program is complex and Iran has turned negotiations over aspects of it into an art. It plays this like a piano concerto. At one point it will key in a certain aspect of the nuclear program to negotiate over, while violating other aspects, and then move back.
Iran’s overall message is that since Western countries don’t want “war” then they must give in.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post