The U.S. Is Quietly Leaving the Door Open to a New Iran Deal

On Friday, the White House announced that it will continue to waive sanctions on Russian and Chinese businesses assisting the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. The renewal of this six-month waiver, reports that the U.S. envoy for Iran has thrice met with the Iranian UN ambassador in the past few weeks, and other off-the-radar policy decisions all suggest that Washington has not given up its hopes of restoring the 2015 nuclear agreement. This despite Tehran’s support for the Russian war in Ukraine, its coziness with China, and its ruthless suppression of mass demonstrations. Richard Goldberg comments. (Free registration required.)

The fundamental failing of the 2015 agreement was its legitimization of Iran’s illicitly built nuclear infrastructure and capabilities without first requiring a complete and verifiable accounting of the regime’s past work on nuclear weapons. Thus Iran was able to keep its Natanz and Fordow uranium-enrichment facilities and continue low-level enrichment on Iranian soil without even admitting it had violated its international obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). These concessions allowed Iran to keep its pathways to nuclear weapons intact, advance its technical knowhow through research and development, and preserve its option to restart higher-level enrichment at any time.

Take, for example, the Fordow facility near the Iranian city of Qom, which Iran had kept secret until exposed by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France in 2009. A peaceful civil nuclear-energy program does not require secret domestic enrichment since nuclear fuel for reactors can be imported with proper nonproliferation safeguards in place. All the more so, an enrichment facility buried underneath a mountain can have only one objective in mind. . . . But rather than require the facility’s irreversible dismantling, the deal allowed Iran to keep more than 1,000 centrifuges at the site, and invited Russia to partner on radioisotope production.

The United States, the United Kingdom, France, or Germany could kill off the [2015 deal] for good at any moment by simply sending a letter to the Security Council requesting a snapback of UN sanctions on Iran. Yet they quite intentionally choose not to do so. They also choose not formally to declare Iran in noncompliance with the NPT at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) despite Iran’s refusal to cooperate with a four-year-long investigation into undeclared nuclear sites and materials.

Read more at Dispatch

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


Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority