New York Times columnist Brett Stevens asked: What does President Biden think he will get out of a nuclear deal with Iran?
The deal may seem like a diplomatic victory for the State Department. But it is a strategic defeat when it does no more than delay a future crisis in exchange for strengthening our present opponents.
A year ago, the answer seemed plausible to the administration. Tehran responded to former President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the original 2015 deal to enrich uranium to higher levels of purity, or ever closer to a nuclear bomb, or at least the ability to build one quickly. With the exception of a new agreement that places limits on enrichment, Iran seemed destined to cross the nuclear goal sooner, hence the urgency of a deal.
But the writer notes: “Today we live in a different world.” It is a world where Russia and China do not wish us well, and a world where Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates do not respond to the calls of Joe Biden in the midst of the greatest geopolitical crisis of the 21st century. Therefore, management may need to consider the broader implications of a new agreement more carefully before re-signing it.
So far, this has not happened. The deal is said to be mostly done, save for a last-minute negotiation over whether the US would remove Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, which Washington says is responsible for killing hundreds of Americans, from the list of foreign terrorist organizations. sanctioned.
Blinken is decisive!
Asked earlier this month if Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would affect nuclear negotiations, the US secretary of state was blunt: “These things are completely different, they are not related in any way.”
However, the writer says that these are interconnected in big and small, tactical and strategic ways. The United States does not even negotiate directly with Tehran, and the Iranians do not allow the Americans into the negotiating room, relying instead on mediators.
Iran got more than it could hope for
The writer asks what these mediators are saying, recalling that Mikhail Ulyanov, Russia’s chief negotiator, said earlier this month in an interview: “I am completely honest in this respect when I say that Iran got more than it could hope for, and much more. ” . “Our Chinese friends have also been very effective and helpful negotiators.”
Ulyanov may be exaggerating the writer’s opinion, but with or without agreement, Moscow will be able to build a nuclear plant in Iran, regardless of the sanctions imposed on the war in Ukraine. Beijing, which in 2021 signed a 25-year strategic partnership with Tehran worth $400 billion, could conduct profitable business in Iran without heeding US sanctions.
With the “unlimited” friendship agreement signed in February between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, the agreement with Iran represents another step towards a new anti-democratic tripartite agreement.
But what about the silver lining of the nuclear deal? That year, Blinken promised a “longer and stronger” deal, hinting that he would seek to extend some provisions of the JCPOA’s expiration into the next decade, as well as place limits on Iran’s ballistic missile tests.
It’s unclear whether the new deal will accomplish either goal, but it will at least extend Iran’s “flight time,” the time it takes to obtain enough enriched uranium for a bomb, from three weeks to about six months, create a intrusive nuclear inspection. regime and give future diplomacy more time to act and thwart a nuclear crisis in the Middle East right now while the world’s attention is focused elsewhere.
This is not a simple matter, and if the deal goes through, management will work hard to show that this is a good enough answer to a problem for which any other solution is worse. It will also stress that “all options are on the table” if Iran chooses to build a bomb.
The writer points out that nobody in the region believes in that or in any other security guarantee from the United States, hence the rejection of the phone calls.
It’s a win, but
The writer adds that the agreement may seem like a diplomatic victory for the State Department. But it is a strategic defeat when it does little more than delay a future crisis in exchange for strengthening our present opponents. Tehran attacked Iraq with ballistic missiles earlier this month and (through its Houthi proxies) launched missile and drone attacks on Abu Dhabi in January. the sanctions?
The writer concluded that the Biden administration urgently needs to show strength. “The Iranian deal, which makes us weaker and more submissive than the previous one, achieves just the opposite at a time when we cannot have another setback.”