The Biden Administration Confronts an Iran with a Significantly More Advanced Nuclear Program

Nov. 18 2020

Four times a year, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issues a report on the state of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program—or at least, on those nuclear activities it hasn’t managed to conceal. Simon Henderson comments on the latest report:

Two issues stand out given the concerns they raise about potential nuclear-weapons development: increased uranium enrichment and purification of plutonium from spent fuel. On the former, the report reveals that Iran’s overall stockpile of enriched uranium is now 2,442.9 kilograms, almost twelve times the amount agreed to under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [or JCPOA, as the 2015 nuclear agreement is known]. Worse, most of this stockpile has been enriched to 4.5 percent—a significant step up from unenriched uranium along the path to possible weapons-grade material, and above the JCPOA limit of 3.67 percent.

The report is littered with other concerns as well, [the extent of which] belies the almost anodyne manner in which the agency presents them.

In sum, the report is very worrisome, especially because it came out two weeks after Iran revealed video of an elaborate tunnel network for missiles that are probably capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. Such missiles are not covered by the JCPOA, nor are Iran’s numerous regional military involvements.

President-elect Joe Biden’s team has indicated that he wants to return to the JCPOA and its numerous restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities once he takes office, but . . . Tehran’s program is moving ahead anyway. Even if the next administration does manage to reinstitute the JCPOA in some form, it will likely be a rather different accord.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear program, Joseph Biden

How Israel and Its Allies Could Have a Positive Influence on the Biden Administration’s Iran Policy

Nov. 25 2020

While the president-elect has expressed his desire to return the U.S. to the 2015 nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic, this should not in itself cause worry in Jerusalem; it has never been the Israeli government’s position that a deal with Tehran is undesirable, only that the flaws of the deal negotiated by the Obama administration outweighed its benefits. Thus Yaakov Amidror, Efraim Inbar, and Eran Lerman urge Israel to approach Joe Biden’s national-security team—whose senior members were announced this week—to urge them to act prudently:

To the greatest extent possible, such approaches should be made jointly, or in very close coordination with, Israel’s new partners in the Gulf. These countries share Israel’s perspectives on the Iranian regional threat and on the need to block Tehran’s path to nuclear weapons.

For Israel, for Iran-deal skeptics in Washington, and for her partners in the region, the first operational priority is to persuade the incoming U.S. national-security team to maintain full leverage on Iran. Sanctions against Iran should not be lifted as a “gesture” without a verified Iranian return to the status quo ante (at the very least) in terms of low-enriched-uranium stockpiles and ongoing enrichment activities.

In parallel, there may emerge a unique opportunity to close ranks with the French (and with Boris Johnson’s government in London) on the Iranian question. On several issues (above all, the struggle for hegemony in the eastern Mediterranean, against Turkey), Jerusalem, Abu Dhabi, and Paris now see eye-to-eye. On Iran, during the negotiations leading to the [deal] in 2015, the position of France was often the most robust. In 2018, President Macron was willing to reach an operational understanding with Secretary of State Pompeo on [key issues regarding the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities].

Last but certainly not least, it should be clear to the incoming U.S. national-security team that any attempt to negotiate must be, can be, and (as far as Israel is concerned) firmly will be backed by a credible military threat.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: France, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, US-Israel relations