Time is running out to stop Iran’s bomb
Delegation members from the parties to the Iran nuclear deal attend a meeting at the Grand Hotel of Vienna as they try to restore the deal. (File/AFP)
The nuclear negotiations between the Iranian regime and the P5+1 world powers (the UK, France, Russia, China, the US and Germany) in Vienna have stalled after six rounds of talks and the revival of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal has become increasingly unlikely.
During the last US administration, the Islamic Republic’s strategy was to place the blame entirely on former President Donald Trump for pulling his country out of the nuclear deal. The regime then began violating the terms of the agreement by enriching uranium at a higher level and spinning more centrifuges. In June 2020, the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, pointed out that the Iranian government was violating all the restrictions of the nuclear deal.
In spite of the fact Iran should no longer have been considered a party to the nuclear deal because it was breaching all its terms, Tehran still claimed that it should enjoy its benefits, such as the lifting of the arms embargo. And, in August last year, the UN Security Council voted to permit the 13-year-old arms embargo on the Iranian regime to expire. The UN also decided against reimposing the four rounds of sanctions against Iran that were lifted when the nuclear deal came into effect in 2015.
The Iranian authorities appeared to have persuaded the world powers that it was in favor of the JCPOA and would immediately rejoin the deal once the US does. In January this year, the Biden administration assumed office and announced that it was willing to return to the nuclear deal and lift the unilateral US sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
But, since then, it is the Iranian regime that has been creating hurdles to prevent the resurrection of the nuclear agreement. In a bid to revive the pact, the Biden administration even began appeasing the Iranian regime through various acts and policies. The first change came when the White House switched the Trump administration’s policy of maximum pressure to one of appeasement toward Iran’s proxy militia group in Yemen, the Houthis. Even though the evidence — including a report by the UN — showed that the Iranian regime was delivering sophisticated weapons to the Houthis, the Biden administration suspended some of the terrorism sanctions that the Trump White House had imposed on the militia.
The Iranian regime has been creating hurdles to prevent the resurrection of the nuclear agreement.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Soon after, the Biden administration revoked the designation of the Houthis as a terrorist group. In June, it also lifted sanctions on three former Iranian officials and several energy companies. And, in a blow to the Iranian people and advocates of democracy and human rights, a few days after the Iranian regime hand-picked a mass murderer to be its next president, the Biden administration announced that it was considering lifting sanctions against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
However, despite all these incentives and appeasement policies, Tehran continues to make excuses for not rejoining the nuclear deal. One of the regime’s latest excuses — made in the final days of Hassan Rouhani’s presidency — was that the world powers ought to wait until Ebrahim Raisi took office in order to resume nuclear talks. However, Raisi has now been president of Iran for a month and there have been no efforts from the Islamic Republic to restart the nuclear talks. Meanwhile, the regime has accelerated its enrichment of uranium to close to weapons grade. All that is coming out of Tehran is words rather than actions.
This has caused concern among Western leaders and has led the EU and the US to pressure Tehran to immediately return to the talks in Vienna. “We vehemently ask Iran to return to the negotiating table constructively and as soon as possible. We are ready to do so, but the time window won’t be open indefinitely,” a German spokesperson said last week.
After stating that it would resume talks when Raisi assumed office, the Iranian leaders are now saying they will not return for another two to three months. During an interview broadcast by Iranian state television last week, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said: “The government considers a real negotiation is a negotiation that produces palpable results allowing the rights of the Iranian nation to be guaranteed.” He added that the nuclear talks are “one of the questions on the foreign policy and government agenda. The other party knows full well that a process of two to three months is required for the new government to establish itself and to start taking decisions.”
Meanwhile, the Iranian regime is reportedly only eight to 10 weeks away from obtaining the materials necessary to build a nuclear weapon.
The regime has offered excuse after excuse in order to avoid resuming the nuclear talks or rejoining the nuclear deal. All the while, it has accelerated its uranium enrichment. It is incumbent on the international community to act before it is too late.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
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