It’s Time to Take the Iran Deal Off Life Support

On recently circulated video from a November 4 campaign event in California, President Biden can be heard telling a questioner that the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran—which his administration came into office promising to renew—is now “dead, but we’re not going to announce it.” This comment, although clearly not intended as a policy statement, is of a piece with a variety of mixed and contradictory signals the White House has sent about the negotiations. “What,” asks Ben Cohen, “can explain this reticence” simply to admit that there will be no new agreement?

In part, it’s the old negotiating tactic of not showing your hand if you don’t absolutely need to; let the Iranians be the ones to take the blame for the failure of talks seems to be the idea here. Yet the Europeans are also a factor, in that the EU remains wedded to the goal of a revived [nuclear deal], despite announcing a new round of sanctions on the Iranian regime after the protests erupted. So long as the EU believes there is even the faintest hope of a breakthrough with the mullahs, the U.S. is unlikely to place an official stamp upon its commander-in-chief’s off-the-cuff comments.

This kind of ducking and weaving by the West sends the signal to Tehran that it still has a role to play, by arriving at an outcome that Western nations badly want. To deliver on a deal, the regime has to remain in power. Yet if our goal now—as Biden stated at the rally in California—is to “free Iran” and to offer every assistance we can to the ordinary Iranians driven by this goal, then we need to do the exact opposite. The robust sanctions that have been imposed on numerous Iranian individuals, military organizations, and government agencies need to be amplified by a freeze on diplomatic contacts with the Iranians.

Foremost, this would mean formally ending the negotiations in Vienna to resurrect the deal. Biden’s judgment that the deal is dead would thus become official policy. And as well as ending the nuclear talks, Western nations should suspend diplomatic contacts by pulling their ambassadors out of Tehran while leaving lower-level staff in place to monitor the repression of the protests.

Read more at JNS

More about: European Union, Iran nuclear program, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy


Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy