Assertions by the new Biden-Harris administration about their intention to negotiate with the mullahs and re-join the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) do not seem to be having a positive effect on Tehran’s leadership.
And at the same time, the Biden team’s outreach to the Iranian regime is stirring grave concerns in Israel.
Even before the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021, officials expected to be named to the Biden administration were holding secret talks with Iran about a return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, according to Israeli media reporting.
Without adding any details, Israel Channel 12 reported on Jan. 16, 2021 that Israel had been updated on those conversations.
Israeli concerns about how far the Biden team may be willing to go in granting concessions to Iran are evident in the assembly by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of a senior-level team, including representatives from the Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry, Mossad, and the Atomic Energy Commission, to strategize for discussions with the new American administration.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz went even further, issuing a statement saying that “Israel needs to have a military option on the table.”
With many of the new Biden appointees having served previously in the Obama-Biden administrations (2008-2016), there is good reason for concern.
Figures like William Burns (slated for the CIA), Jake Sullivan as National Security Advisor, Anthony Blinken and Wendy Sherman at State Department, and possibly Robert Malley to serve as Special Envoy to Iran, were all closely involved in negotiating the first Iran deal.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s prescient warning in his speech to the U.S. Congress in 2015 that the agreement “paves Iran’s path to the bomb” is now borne out by Iran’s brazen and serial violations of the JCPOA. No wonder there is trepidation in Israel about where round two might go.
To be sure, the revelations about the extent of Iran’s nuclear weapons program after the Mossad’s daring 2016 heist of Tehran’s nuclear archives were not known in 2015, but there’s scant evidence the naive U.S. team has matured significantly since then.
Nevertheless, Biden’s negotiating team will now have to deal with all the JCPOA provisions regarding limits on amounts of enriched uranium, levels of enrichment, heavy water stockpiles, and limits on installation of advanced centrifuges, all of which Iran has long since blown past as Peter Schweizer put in a recent article.
Schweizer went on to note that it is hardly likely that the Iranian regime would be willing to recommit to provisions violated with so little international resistance — and especially as it would entail disposing of uranium stockpiles, now being enriched to 20% by advanced centrifuges at sites like Fordow, where they never were supposed to be in the first place.
Is the world to believe the Islamic Republic’s word this time will be any more credible than the first time?
This is all in addition to such issues as American hostages, ballistic missiles, and support for Islamic terror groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Yemeni Houthis, and Iraq’s Shi’ite militias that weren’t even mentioned in the initial nuclear deal.
And, although it was hardly a major revelation having been detailed in the 2011 Havlish, et al. v. bin Laden, et al. legal case — and the Lopez-Tefft affidavit — when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo first spoke about the Iran-Al-Qa’eda alliance in mid-January 2021, it may have seemed to be.
Naturally, none of all this was mentioned during the original Iran nuclear negotiations either — but it certainly should be this time.
The Trump policy of maximum pressure bought the world some time.
Knowing full well the demands, tactics, and strategies the Iranians used in 2015, the Biden team (as well as our European partners) would do well to make maximum use of the respite Trump’s aggressive stance bought for us.
If there are to be new talks, we must commit to ensuring that whatever terms are discussed ensure that Iran is banned from further work on advanced centrifuges, uranium enrichment, creating uranium metal for the hemispheres of nuclear warheads, and the ballistic missiles to carry them.
American hostages held by the regime must also be front and center in any such talks, along with a demand for an end to Tehran’s support for terrorism.
Absent such provisions and the means to verify them, no sanctions, whether nuclear or terrorism related, should be lifted, especially not as a pre-condition to merely opening talks again.
No more billions for the mullahs’ coffers.
Nor can simply talking for the sake of talking be a substitute for exerting the leverage the U.S. now has over the debilitated Iranian economy.
Finally, the U.S. team must not go wobbly in the face of predictable Iranian threats about there being only a “very limited” window for new JCPOA talks.
Instead, let us urge the new Biden-Harris team to approach the Iranian regime with the commitment, skill, and determination it will take to emerge with American, regional, and global security objectives intact.
This column was originally published on Feb. 4 at Newsmax
The views expressed in CCNS member articles are not necessarily the views or positions of the entire CCNS. They are the views of the authors, who are members of the CCNS.