At the end of last week, the U.S. appeared ready to agree to an updated version of the 2015 agreement to restrain the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. Richard Goldberg explains why the forthcoming deal would be even worse than its predecessor:
Under the deal, Iran would get access to more than $100 billion, which it could spend on terrorism, missiles, and the pursuit of regional hegemony. Enforcement remains weak or non-existent, so there is no barrier to Iran’s crossing the nuclear threshold at a time of its choosing. Terrorism sanctions imposed on the Central Bank of Iran, the National Iranian Oil Company, and a host of other banks and companies will be suspended without any evidence that these institutions are no longer engaged in financing terrorism.
But wait, there’s more: America may trust Russia to maintain custody of Iran’s enriched-uranium stockpile with a promise to return the stockpile to Iran if the U.S. ever reimposes sanctions.
The original deal left Iran’s nuclear-enrichment capabilities intact, provided no restrictions on the development of nuclear-capable missiles, and came with expiration dates—or “sunsets”—on key international restrictions. The first sunset, lifting a UN ban on transferring conventional arms to Iran, arrived in late 2020. The next one, lifting a UN ban on transferring missile parts to Iran, arrives next year. The deal then allows Iran to conduct the very same nuclear work that we see today in the years that follow.
Moscow loves the old deal, especially the sunsets. Russia stands to make a lot of money off arms sales if Biden rescinds Trump’s executive order. That’s on top of the money Putin will already make building nuclear-power plants in Iran.
Since Goldberg wrote these words, the Kremlin has held up the agreement, possibly to use it as leverage against the U.S. As Russia is a party to the 2015 deal, the new version can’t be finalized without its approval.