By THE EDITORS
March 4, 2022 6:30 AM
What’s brewing in Vienna will be, as former national-security official Richard Goldberg puts it, “The New Worst Deal in History.” Under the direction of Biden’s Iran envoy Robert Malley, American negotiators in Vienna are poised to grant Iran an unfettered path toward a nuclear program and further destabilization of the region.
During the 2020 campaign, Biden made an “unshakeable commitment” to block Iran from a bomb through a return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, which President Trump had pulled out of while imposing stiff new sanctions on Iran. The problem then and now is the same — the JCPOA never prevented Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, it allowed it to continue ballistic-missile development, and it ignored Iran’s status as the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. The deal’s billions in sanctions relief (to say nothing of the ransom payments) have funded the brutality of the regime and its proxies.
The original JCPOA was inherently a deeply destructive concession; a return to the JCPOA would be an utter capitulation. Knowing Biden was desperate for a deal, the mullahs played hard to get, refusing to sit down with American negotiators. Consequently, Malley and the administration have used intermediaries, and — breathtakingly in light of current events — Russian diplomat Mikhail Ulyanov has played a leading role in the talks. How comforting to learn that, pursuant to a Russian proposal in January reportedly extended with the knowledge of the American delegation, Iran would reap the benefits of sanctions relief by parking the uranium it has been enriching with Moscow.
One of the main failures of the original Iran deal was that even if the regime followed all of its provisions, it would remain on a long-term glide path to nuclear weapons, as the deal’s restrictions began to sunset within ten years of its 2016 implementation. But given Iran’s advancements since the original deal, Tehran is currently enriching uranium at up to 60 percent purity, producing uranium metal, and hiding stockpiles of fissile material from the IAEA. As a result, the Islamic Republic has a breakout time of under six months.All Our Opinion in Your Inbox
The original JCPOA capped enrichment at 3.67 percent. Mohammad Eslami, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said that even if Vienna ends up again in a JCPOA-style deal, Iran will continue to enrich at up to 20 percent — the threshold for being considered highly enriched and a crucial hurdle in the path to nuclearization.
What’s the catch for Iran? Absolutely nothing. The Islamic Republic would be flooded with billions from frozen assets and dropped sanctions to finance its destabilizing activities across the Middle East. In fact, to show its diplomatic goodwill, the Biden administration has overlooked Iran’s violation of its oil sanctions and granted sanction waivers on Tehran’s gas trade with Iraq and its civil nuclear program.
Gabriel Noronha, a former State Department official, reported that the Biden administration is planning to lift terrorism sanctions. It was irrational of Obama to cordon off Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism from its nuclear-weapons activities, but at least that meant terrorism-related sanctions remained in effect, despite the JCPOA. During his nomination hearing, Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that the U.S. had to do “everything possible . . . including the toughest possible sanctions,” to deal with Iranian-sponsored terrorism. Now, as the Iranians capitalize on a weak White House desperate for a deal, anything goes.
This would include lifting sanctions on thugs including Brigadier General Hoseein Dehghan, who led Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps forces in Lebanon during the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut. Noronha even reports that negotiations include the potential removal of the IRGC from the list of foreign terrorist organizations, and the consequent lifting of sanctions imposed against it.
The Islamic Republic is a consistent sponsor of terrorism and force for the instability of the region. It has continually supported the likes of Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Houthis. It has armed Hezbollah with thousands of rockets and missiles to menace Israel. The IRGC orchestrated Iran’s brutal operations in Iraq and Syria and continues to support terrorist groups throughout the Middle East. But instead of holding Iran accountable, the Biden administration would not only remove the stigma of the terrorism designation but reward it with billions to underwrite its activities. Indeed, as a general matter, besides temporary limits on its nuclear work, the agreement Biden is reportedly contemplating imposes no restrictions on what Iran may do with its windfall — not on terrorism, support for terrorist proxies, ballistic-missile development, hostage-taking, and the rest of its atrocious menu.
That’s not even the White House’s greatest delusion; they seem to believe this weaker version of the JCPOA will be a springboard for a “longer and stronger” deal. But we’ve played all our cards, and Iran isn’t likely to return to the negotiating table after scoring a deal as sweet as this one.