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US loses control of Iran nuke talks; Israel loses hope for a serious deal

At this late date, those who care about the fate of U.S. global interests—as well as Israel and the Jewish people—must prevent this rotten deal.

World powers and Iran in Vienna for talks discussing the Iran nuclear deal, November 2021. Source: E.U. delegation in Vienna/Twitter.
World powers and Iran in Vienna for talks discussing the Iran nuclear deal, November 2021. Source: E.U. delegation in Vienna/Twitter.
Ken Cohen
Ken Cohen
Ken Cohen is editor of 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.

President Biden called last year for a renewal of the Iran nuclear talks aimed at reaching a new, “longer and stronger” agreement to prevent the ayatollahs from going nuclear. By all accounts, the negotiations are going poorly for the United States and for all nations that wish to see Iran’s nuclear and terrorist ambitions reined in.

But since, outrageously, the Iranians refuse to speak directly with U.S. representatives, our role is greatly diminished. We’re now relying largely on a Russian diplomat who has assumed a leading role in the Vienna negotiations.

It appears that Israel—completely excluded from the Vienna talks, but Iran’s number one target for extermination—is going to be presented with a nuclear pact spearheaded by Mikhail Ulyanov, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s man in Vienna.

Biden appears to now be a tangential player, lacking even the leverage of “red lines” that would pressure Iran or give him the pretext to refuse to sign a deal. Having spoken boldly of reaching a tougher deal, Biden now seems willing to ink any agreement that would reverse former President Donald Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from former President Barack Obama’s original 2015 pact.

In short, the United States has given up its negotiating authority, with Iran having relegated it to a subsidiary role in a humiliating game of charades.

At issue is a new version of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 agreement with Iran, which was aimed at restraining their nuclear weapons program, even while setting a timetable of roughly a decade for them to go nuclear.

Since the Americans are sidelined, U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley speaks to Ulyanov on behalf of the Biden administration. The Russian then weighs Malley’s position and speaks with the official negotiating “team”—the United Kingdom, France, Germany and China. Then, Ulyanov returns to the negotiating table with Iran, where he appears to capitulate to a large majority of Iran’s demands.

Whether 2022’s “JCPOA 2.0” will extend the calendar or place meaningful new limits on Iran is still secret—but State Department insiders and recently-resigned members of the U.S negotiating team say it doesn’t look good.

One of those team members, Richard Nephew, was Malley’s deputy in Vienna, and says he left over a “sincere difference of opinion concerning policy.”

Nephew is an expert on the use of sanctions, which may offer a clue to the reason for his and his team members’ abrupt departure from Vienna.

Another critic, Gabriel Noronha, was Special Adviser for Iran in the Trump era. He has made troubling allegations about the impending deal. According to Noronha, most sanctions on Iran’s institutions and terror-implicated agents are to be dropped, at Iran’s insistence.

These include people and organizations not even related to Iran’s nuclear program. Among those apparently being relieved of sanctions is the mastermind of the 1983 AMIA Jewish Center bombing in Buenos Aires; key planners of the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marines headquarters in Beirut—which killed 241 Americans and 58 Frenchmen; and the Iranian agents who performed the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia.

The last bombing was the work of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is listed and sanctioned by the United States as a terrorist organization. According to Noronha, the IRGC, which has carried out terror attacks in over 40 countries around the world, is on the JCPOA 2.0 “forgiveness list.”

Sanctions relief is big business for Iran: It stands to gain some $90 billion in access to foreign exchange reserves, and then reap a further $50 billion to $55 billion in annual revenue from exports, chiefly oil. Reportedly, the deal currently includes no strictures regarding how the money can be used, which is good news for groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, long the beneficiaries of Iran’s largesse.

Perhaps the most tragic aspect of the emerging deal is that Iran will maintain access to its uranium enrichment facilities and its existing stash of 60%-enriched uranium, whose only use is in producing atomic bombs.

Grudgingly, Iran seems willing to live with an enrichment limit of “just” 20% going forward—a level that is still five times higher than the 2015 JCPOA restriction.

President Biden has been invisible throughout this negotiating process. According to Noronha, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has acceded to Iran’s increasingly outrageous demands, with Russia’s Ulyanov hardly being a tough negotiating adversary against Iran.

Indeed, Russia and Iran have collaborated for years militarily in Syria with an enormous loss of Syrian life. Putin’s air force turned vibrant and prosperous Aleppo into a bombed-out husk. Iranian troops and proxies finished off the job on the ground.

Ulyanov himself recently commented, “Realistically speaking, Iran got more than frankly I expected, others expected. This is a matter of fact.”

The rumored terms of the new pact are a potential death sentence for Israel. Unless the Biden administration digs its heels in—which seems highly doubtful—Israel will need to take drastic action to prevent Iran from joining the nuclear club in fairly short order. And it must brace itself for the likely torrent of terrorism that a wealthy Iran will unleash—especially on Israel and Jews around the world.

As the prime target of Iranian fanaticism, Israel—yet again—is being left to its own devices in the cruel world of geopolitics—by its “best friend,” the United States of America.

Adding insult to injury, it appears that the U.S. Congress will not be involved in the JCPOA 2.0 treaty, as the Constitution requires, due to a cynical legislative workaround being employed by Biden.

Indeed, Biden seems desperate to call the radically different agreement emerging from Vienna a “renewal” rather than a “replacement.” This would allow him to avoid, as Obama also did in 2015, having to go to Congress for approval, much less to secure the necessary two-thirds vote in the Senate that is required under the Constitution to ratify a treaty.

This maneuver also, of course, gave Trump the unilateral withdrawal option a few years later and would do the same for the next Republican president—who is likely to be repulsed by the deal and outraged by Iran’s cheating on it.

At this late date, those who care about the fate of U.S. global interests—as well as Israel and the Jewish people—must prevent this rotten deal. The president must abandon this fateful path, and use the various forms of real American power to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions for America’s sake—and for Israel’s.

Israel cannot live with the impending agreement. America is a dear friend of Israel, but Biden will likely have betrayed that friendship when the Vienna deal is made public, and if it is implemented.

Ken Cohen is co-editor of the hotline published by Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which offers educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.

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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