Despite the mounting, compelling evidence that Iran intends to continue to game the resumed nuclear negotiations with the West to buy time to develop ever more weapons-grade uranium, the Biden Administration continues to talk in circles and signal to Iran that there may never be a time for lowering the boom.
Thus, it has been five months since President Biden met with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett – reportedly primarily to discuss Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapons capacity – and noted afterwards “our commitment to ensure that Iran never develops a nuclear weapon,” and that “we’re putting diplomacy first and seeing where that takes us. But if diplomacy fails, we’re ready to turn to other options.”
Secretary of Defense Antony Blinken echoed the president, but also added that the Iran negotiating process could not be allowed to drift indefinitely because “at some point the gains achieved by the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action) cannot be recovered if Iran continues the activities that it’s undertaken with regard to its nuclear program.”
This was followed two days later by a comment – rather ominous, we thought at the time – from Robert Malley, the lead U.S. negotiator on the Iran nuclear issue. He noted that Iranians are learning so much from the work now underway that in the near future it may be impossible to return to the old accords. “At that point,” he said, “we will have to reassess the way forward.”
So we are at a loss to understand the official administration reaction to last Thursday’s breakup of the negotiations due to Iran’s continuing to make patently unacceptable, irrational demands and even walking back on things it had already agreed to.
Secretary Blinken said that while Iran’s “recent moves, recent rhetoric don’t give us a lot of cause for optimism… in the very near future, the next day or so, we will be in a position to judge whether Iran actually intends now to engage in good faith…There is still time for Iran to ‘reverse course’ and engage in meaningful negotiations.” And once again he reiterated, “What Iran can’t do is sustain the status quo of building their nuclear program while dragging their feet on talks. That will not happen.”
Sounds like the same old same old, and doubtless had the Iranians “shivering in their boots.”
In fact, Secretary Blinken also rejected Bennett’s call for the U.S. to give up on the possibility of a negotiated settlement with Iran. Perhaps even more telling has been the Biden administration’s pushing back on Israel’s more tangible efforts to deter Iran’s march towards nuclear weaponry.
It has been no secret that over the past 20 months, there have been at least four major explosions at Iranian nuclear facilities attributed to Israel, along with the killing of Iran’s top nuclear scientist. But it was recently leaked that U.S. officials have warned Israel that their efforts are counterproductive and should end. The officials explained that they were getting in the way of possible success at the all-important negotiating table but also, that despite succeeding in taking uranium enrichments plant off line and destroying dozens of centrifuges, Iran came back with newer and even faster machines.
The message to the Iranians was that the U.S. was just blowing so much smoke and that while the Americans would continue to suggest the possibility of a resort to force, in reality they have no stomach for it.
Israeli officials have said they do not believe that there is even a remote chance the Iranians will get serious about a negotiated resolution and so have no intention of letting up.
We think Israel has the better of the argument here and believe that if Iran is to be prevented from becoming a nuclear power, the U.S. must soon do something consequential that will get Iran’s attention and also make the point that force is, indeed, in play. Failing that, Iran will get its nuclear weapons and then, tragically, all bets will be off.