Since January, the Biden administration has been working on a proposal for an interim Iran agreement on nuclear development and has recently begun briefing European and Israeli officials, Axios reported last week. The agreement would provide Iran with some up front sanction relief in exchange for Iran’s curbing nuclear enrichment above 60 percent purity (90% is weapons grade). The news could not have come at a worse time.
To be sure, a statement from the U.S. National Security Council reiterated that President Biden is committed to stopping Iran, “and we still believe diplomacy is the best way to achieve that objective.”
Few take the President seriously on this score, however, especially since the Iranians were forced into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2015 under threat of military intervention. At that time, the Iranians succeeded in snookering the Obama administration’s negotiators into setting up a laughable inspection regime. That was the beginning of the end of any notion that the US was in the driver’s seat poised to pounce on a fearful Iran. Reports of Iranian violations proliferated over the years since then; and in February, inspectors from the United Nations discovered uranium particles enriched up to 83.7 at Iran’s underground Fordo nuclear site.
The news of a possible new deal at this point, coming on the heels of the Chinese political coup in brokering the restoration of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, only underscores an embarrassing failure of American foreign policy. The significant Chinese entrance into Middle East diplomacy upends America’s role as the overarching superpower in the area and may have even compromised the Abraham Accords.
And don’t forget the infamous Chinese spy balloon that roamed unmolested across the U.S. for weeks. CNN reported that the U.S. was able to “block” the Chinese from gathering intelligence before it was shot down, and made unverified claims that the U.S. military was able to turn the tables on China and gather intelligence on the balloon itself and its equipment.
NBC News, however, quoting two current senior U.S. officials and one former senior U.S. official, reported that the balloon was able to gather intelligence from sensitive American sites despite the Biden administration’s effort to block it from doing so. The intelligence China collected was mostly from electronic signals, which can be picked up from weapons systems and include communications from base personnel.
The Department of Defense’s public assurances that the balloon had “limited” value for intelligence collection by the Chinese government “over and above what China is likely to collect through things like satellites in low orbit” wasn’t particularly comforting. It seems like there are a lot of serious problems for us out there and we don’t have a clue.
Congressional oversight, where are you?