The Biden administration is still clinging to the hope of rejoining the Iran nuclear deal even as Iran continues to refuse to make concessions and steadily moves closer to having the capability to build a bomb. What is striking is that from the beginning of negotiations by the Obama administration to the present, the proponents of a nuclear deal have consistently lied and made arguments that defy logic.
Perhaps the biggest one is that Iran has not decided to build a nuclear weapon. If that were true, what was the need for a deal with Iran? The latest U.S. State Department assessment says, “Iran is not currently engaged in key activities associated with the design and development of a nuclear weapon.” It then goes on to document all the ways it is violating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and advancing towards a weapons capability.
If Iran was not interested in a nuclear weapon, then why is it developing ballistic missiles, whose primary use is to deliver a nuclear warhead? Knowing this, the Obama administration still left Iran’s missile program out of the JCPOA, and President Joe Biden is prepared to do the same.
Former President Barack Obama claimed the JCPOA would cut off all avenues to a bomb but contradicted himself by acknowledging that as early as year 13 of the agreement, Iran’s breakout time would be down to “almost zero.” He was wrong. It is nearly there now, in only year seven.
Just as most people recognize that sanctions will not influence Russian President Vladimir Putin’s behavior, the same is true of Iran, where we now have the experience of seven years of sanctions having no impact whatsoever on its pursuit of nuclear weapons or its other malevolent activities.
The Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign was a total failure; still, the effort to blame his leaving the deal for Iran’s ability to get closer to building a nuclear weapon—the administration says Iran is weeks from breakout—is bogus. What critics ignore is that Iran is doing this under the terms of the deal. The United States withdrew, but the other signatories, including Iran, did not, so the agreement remains in force, even though the Iranians are violating its terms with impunity.
This brings us to another of Obama’s lies, that sanctions would snap back if Iran breached the deal. While Trump did reimpose sanctions, Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia refused to do so and have done everything in their power to subvert U.S. sanctions. China and Russia have signed multibillion-dollar deals with Iran, and the Biden administration is allowing Putin to collect, exempting Russia from Ukraine-related sanctions.
Another of Obama’s lies was that under the agreement “the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency], will have access where necessary, when necessary.” Iran said from the beginning it would never allow its military installations to be inspected—the most likely place for developing weapons—and has been true to its word.
This is just one of many examples of how Iran never complied with the deal, despite three administrations repeatedly saying that it did. Another example is that Iran was supposed to come clean about its past nuclear projects but still refuses to do so. The State Department assessment and multiple reports by the Institute for Science and International Security list numerous other examples of noncompliance.
We also know from the revelations by the Iranian opposition and Israelis that the IAEA has failed to deliver on Obama’s assertion that the deal would be verifiable. The IAEA has repeatedly been shown to be incapable of locating sites where Iran has been, and likely continues to be, working on a bomb.
One of the arguments against a military operation has been that it would, at best, only postpone Iran’s obtainment of a nuclear weapon. Even if that were true, how is that different from the nuclear agreement, which has also only delayed Iran from building a bomb but not prevented it from getting to the verge of a nuclear capability? The JCPOA’s sunset clauses also meant it was only a temporary impediment.
The facts are so straightforward that it’s hard to believe that anyone still takes seriously the arguments for the nuclear deal, and it is perhaps another example of the effectiveness of telling the same lies so often that people begin to believe them—in this case, repeating that Iran isn’t interested in a nuclear bomb, that the deal can prevent the Iranians from obtaining a bomb and that any violations by Iran would be punished.
Meanwhile, Iran has violated the JCPOA and reached the threshold of a nuclear capability; developed ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear warheads and hit targets in the Middle East and Europe; sponsored terrorism around the world, including plots to assassinate Americans; and used its proxies to attack U.S. bases and allies in the region.
The only thing that may save us from the Biden team’s illogical arguments for returning to the JCPOA is Iran’s unwillingness to make the same concessions it did in 2015. Instead of being content to wait out the West to build a bomb, Iran now sees how Putin has played the nuclear card and appears no longer willing to play the long game. The question then is whether President Joe Biden will deliver on his promise that “Iran will never get a nuclear weapon on my watch.”
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including “The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews” and “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”