OpinionMiddle East

Why Biden’s new ‘Iran Deal Lite’ is raising alarm

The U.S. administration's switch from prevention to containment of Iran's nuclear program will lead to disaster.

New-generation centrifuges on display in Tehran during Iran's National Nuclear Energy Day, April 10, 2021. Credit: Iranian Presidency Office/WANA.
New-generation centrifuges on display in Tehran during Iran's National Nuclear Energy Day, April 10, 2021. Credit: Iranian Presidency Office/WANA.
Jason Shvili
Jason Shvili
Jason Shvili is a contributing editor at Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.

Since Iran defiantly rebuked recent U.S. efforts to renew the failed 2015 nuclear deal, President Joe Biden is trying Plan C—a dramatically weakened strategy to “contain” instead of “prevent” Iran’s nuclear weapons development. 

This new approach has alarm bells going off in the U.S. Congress and among America’s allies, because it is even worse than the 2015 deal. It allows Iran to build nuclear weapons in a much shorter time, and gives the Iranians time to build facilities that can protect their nuclear program from attack. 

Preventing Iran from making further advances in its nuclear capabilities could become nearly impossible.

A senior administration official admits there have been ongoing, indirect talks with the Iranian government in Oman. The administration denies any deals were concluded, but former Iranian lawmaker Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh claims a deal was reached.

Under the terms of the supposed deal, Iran would pledge not to enrich uranium above its current level of 60% and would not add to the amount currently enriched to that level. Iran would also release dual U.S.-Iranian citizens currently in its custody. In exchange, the U.S. would provide Iran with about $20 billion in sanctions relief.

Preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons has always been America’s solemn, unyielding promise—from Obama and Trump to Biden. 

While the stated goal of Obama’s 2015 JCPOA “Iran Deal,” was to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, in fact the deal had a sunset clause that permitted Iran almost fully to return to nuclear weapons development by 2026. 

Now, because of Biden’s failure to resuscitate Obama’s failed deal—and his fallback to mere “containment”—America’s allies feel compelled to take their own actions to protect themselves from a nuclear Iran.

If Iran is allowed to obtain nuclear weapons, other countries in the Middle East will follow suit. Moreover, the sanctions relief Biden is promising will also provide Iran massive funding for its belligerent agenda in the region. 

In short, Biden must recommit to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Failing to do so will destabilize the Middle East, encourage Iran’s imperialist ambitions and likely lead to a bloody regional conflict unlike the world has ever seen.

No wonder Biden wants his new, emaciated deal to be informal, allowing him to bypass Congress, where such an agreement would face stiff opposition. In fact, recently, 249 lawmakers—more than half the House of Representatives—sent a joint letter to Biden urging him to take additional steps to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. The Senate also sent a similar letter.

U.S. lawmakers’ opposition to Biden’s new strategy is well-founded. For instance, 60% enrichment is much higher than the 3.67% limit imposed by the JCPOA, and much closer to the 90% enrichment level that is considered weapons grade. In fact, even at its current level of enrichment, Iran is now estimated to possess enough material to manufacture five nuclear bombs. 

Furthermore, according to a top U.S. Defense Department official, Iran could make enough fissile material for one bomb in as little as 12 days. 

The “understanding” Biden is trying to reach with Iran also gives the mullahs more time to build nuclear facilities impervious to attack by the United States and its allies. This would make it nearly impossible to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons in the future.

Indeed, as we speak, in the Zagros Mountains of central Iran, the Iranians are building nuclear facilities so deep underground that they would likely be impervious to U.S. weapons. 

In the face of the potential U.S. retreat, America’s allies, including the United Kingdom, the European Union and Israel, are raising alarms and seeking independent alternatives. Recently, for example, European diplomats informed the Iranians that they plan to maintain E.U. sanctions on Iran’s ballistic missile program, which were scheduled to expire this October per the JCPOA. 

Iran’s missile program is a serious threat, as these missiles can be enabled to deliver nuclear weapons. Indeed, the Trump administration cited Iran’s missile program as one of the reasons for withdrawing from the JCPOA. Such missiles have previously been used to target U.S. troops in the Middle East.  

Just this past May, Iran tested a missile with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,242 miles)—enough to hit most of the Middle East and parts of Israel. The Israeli government has said it will take unilateral military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons if the United States and its allies fail to do so. 

Failing to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons will almost certainly push other countries in the Middle East to pursue their own nuclear weapons programs. In an interview with CBS, for example, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said, “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.” 

Other regional powers, including Egypt, Algeria and Turkey already have or are currently building facilities for producing material for nuclear weapons. Turkey is also developing nuclear-capable missiles. Thus, containing Iran’s nuclear program instead of preventing it will almost certainly provoke an arms race in the region that could lead to catastrophic consequences. 

Iran will also most definitely use the $20 billion in sanctions relief that Biden is offering to finance longer-range ICBMs, promote terrorism throughout the region and extend its imperialistic hegemony. 

Now, as always, the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran is a nightmare. The Biden administration must stick to its previous commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Simply trying to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions is a recipe for regional instability, increased Iranian aggression and a potential Middle East war. The United States and its allies don’t want it and cannot afford it. 

A cliché though it may be, the adage about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure seems particularly apt in the case of a nuclear-armed Iran.

President Biden must never allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, and his new strategy of containment will most certainly lead to disaster.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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