AMAC Exclusive – by Aaron Kliegman
When President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, met with his Israeli counterpart in Washington last week, the atmosphere was open and friendly. But such warmth and frankness couldn’t disguise the fact that, regarding Iran’s nuclear program, the U.S. and Israel remain miles apart.
“Right now, there is no joint operational contingency plan against Iran should efforts to return to the nuclear agreement fail,” a senior Israeli defense official told Al-Monitor. “And even worse, the Americans do not have any solution whatsoever to such a situation. They do not have a Plan B. They do not have alternatives.”
In other words, reviving the terrible 2015 nuclear deal, which ostensibly limits Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief, isn’t just the Biden administration’s Plan A to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. It’s the administration’s only plan.
As unwelcome as this news may be, it should not be surprising. Biden and his team have made clear since the 2020 campaign their desire to reenter the accord, while hardly if ever mentioning the prospect of other options should that effort fail. But even if this outcome was all to predictable, the administration’s narrow fixation on reviving a deal that’s beyond saving is nonetheless deeply alarming.
Indeed, Iran is violating all the deal’s restrictions, including the purity level to which it’s allowed to enrich uranium (3.67 percent). Just last week, the regime said it had produced more than 120 kg of 20 percent enriched uranium — a sharp increase from the 84 kg reported by U.N. inspectors last month. It takes about 170 kg to make a nuclear bomb quickly with further enrichment.
Iran is also stockpiling more uranium than the deal permits and ignoring restrictions on the development and deployment of advanced centrifuges to purify the fissile material.
Plus, the regime is stonewalling inspections by the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). To quote a recent IAEA report, the agency “remains deeply concerned that nuclear material has been present at undeclared locations in Iran and that the current locations of this nuclear material are not known to the agency.”
The IAEA concluded that the “lack of progress in clarifying the agency’s questions concerning the correctness and completeness of Iran’s safeguards declarations seriously affects the ability of the agency to provide assurance of the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.”
All told, the regime could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear weapon in “as short as one month,” according to the Institute for Science and International Security. Other estimates say it could be few months, but all agree that it could be very, very soon.
True, Tehran still needs to put a nuclear warhead on a missile to have a usable weapon, and that process could take a couple years. But regardless, Iran is well on its way to getting the bomb. And the know-how that Iran has acquired can’t be unlearned.
The bottom line is that at this point, the nuclear deal is dead. But even if the deal were magically revived tomorrow and Iran’s cheating could somehow be erased, the regime would still have nuclear weapons almost within reach. The timeline of the Obama-era deal almost ensures as much.
In 2023, the deal lifts a U.N. ban on assisting Iran’s missile program, allowing the regime to acquire components and technology for its ballistic missile program. This will allow Iran to advance its ability to deliver nuclear weapons. Then in 2026, the Iranian regime will be free to enrich uranium using advanced, far more efficient centrifuges — and to install and operate more of its older models. Just five years later, restrictions on the amount and level of enriched uranium that Iran can stockpile disappear.
Meanwhile, as all these deadlines approach, Iran has, under the terms of the agreement, up to 24 days to grant access to inspectors to inspect undeclared but suspected nuclear sites. That’s ample time for the regime to hide or destroy evidence. But the deal also provides Iran numerous opportunities to further delay access to inspectors by several weeks or even months.
In short, Iran will be free to build as large and sophisticated a nuclear program as it wants — while also being free from economic sanctions. Even worse, the regime will have no incentive to strike another deal or negotiate. Not to mention Biden will leave his successor with zero leverage to use in future negotiations.
While reviving the old nuclear deal is a losing option, that doesn’t mean any nuclear deal is off the table. The U.S. could seek a better deal with Iran. The problem is the Biden administration has already given up so much leverage by removing sanctions prematurely in a bid to jumpstart negotiations.
In June, the administration repealed economic penalties on several former Iranian officials and energy companies. The administration then authorized certain transactions involving the Central Bank of Iran or the National Iranian Oil Company. Both entities, which the U.S. has sanctioned for financing terrorism, are crucial to the economic wellbeing of the regime.
What’s so striking is that each round of sanctions relief was a unilateral action by Biden’s team, for which the U.S. received nothing in return. They were gestures to encourage Iran to reciprocate. Instead, the regime responded by continuing to ramp up its illicit nuclear activities — all the while showing no interest in joining diplomatic talks with the U.S.
This is why we are seeing Iran say this month that the U.S. unblocking $10 billion in frozen Iranian funds would be “one example” of how Washington could generate goodwill and enable a resumption of nuclear negotiations.
Iran’s strategy is clear: nuclear escalation, thinking the Biden administration will cede to Iranian demands to avoid confrontation. That gamble appears to be working. Biden’s concessions only emboldened the regime to double down and demand more concessions, not to meet the U.S. halfway.
Both before and after Sullivan’s meeting last week with his Israeli counterpart, senior U.S. officials said the administration is prepared to pursue “other options” to ensure Iran never develops a nuclear weapon should diplomacy fail. The problem is there’s no evidence to support their claims. But it’s even worse than that, according to the Israelis.
“What is truly troubling is that they [Biden’s team] are not really concerned about” the Iranian nuclear issue, said the Israeli official quoted above. “They see events in a completely different way than we do.”
“The severity of the situation does not really trouble them; they do not think that American national security is under threat of an Iranian nuclear effort,” the official continued. “We are simply trying to prove to them that the Iranian saga could end up like the North Korean one, if the current sleepiness continues. Right now, we don’t seem to have convinced them.”
That analysis may actually be underselling the threat. A nuclear-armed Iran wouldn’t be like a nuclear-armed North Korea; it would be worse.
Unlike North Korea, Iran is an imperial, expansionist power, actively using soldiers, proxies and subversion to dominate its region. Iran is also different because it tries to export a revolutionary, theocratic ideology abroad and has something of value to offer to the global economy: oil and gas.
The Biden administration needs to wake up and recognize the Iranian nuclear threat for what it is. That means exerting maximum pressure on Iran’s leaders, not appeasing them, and working with Israel to show Iran that military action is on the table. Otherwise, soon diplomacy won’t even be an option and, through Biden’s weakness, the U.S. will have left the world an ugly choice: military strikes or a terrorist state with a nuclear bomb.
We hope you've enjoyed this article. While you're here, we have a small favor to ask...
As we prepare for what promises to be a pivotal year for America, we're asking you to consider a gift to help fund our journalism and advocacy.
The need for fact-based reporting that offers real solutions and stops the spread of misinformation has never been greater. Now more than ever, journalism and our first amendment rights are under fire. That's why AMAC is passionately working to increase the number of real news articles we deliver WEEKLY, while continuing to strengthen our presence on Capitol Hill.
AMAC Action, a 501 (C)(4), advocates to protect American values, free speech, the exercise of religion, equality of opportunity, sanctity of life, the rule of law, and love of family.
Thank you for putting your faith in AMAC!Donate Now