“Longer and stronger” is a great slogan for a little blue pill, but it is not a strategy for international diplomatic negotiations with an adversary, and certainly not in a nuclear agreement with Iran. As eyes focus on Vienna this week where renewed US-led P5+1 negotiations with Iran will take place, what’s needed is a complete nuclear castration, not a placebo that does not cure the disease.
If the 2015 (JCPOA) Iranian nuclear agreement had been half good, there would have been no need to renegotiate today. Yes, President Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement opened the door for Iran to give up any pretenses and move ahead at a rapid pace. But if the 2015 Obama/Kerry led agreement hadn’t been so bad, Trump wouldn’t have considered withdrawal. Some argue that some agreement is better than none. But a major flaw of the original agreement is that it did not only not prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, it simply delayed that, and paved the path for it.
“Longer and stronger” is also insufficient if doing so only lengthens the road upon which to kick the can down. It is not a competent strategy. If eventually Iran ends up with a nuclear weapon, it’s a failed strategy. Just like there being no such thing as being a little pregnant, a country cannot be just a little nuclear.
There’s an irony of successive US presidents (and other leaders) crying that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon on their watch.
President Obama’s pledge to this effect was self-fulfilling lunacy, because he knew in 2015 that wouldn’t be president when, according to his agreement even by complying completely, Iran could legitimately build a weapon. “Longer and stronger” is President Biden’s 2.0 version.By delaying what the agreement permits, yes, it is correct that Iran won’t get a nuclear weapon on Biden’s watch. That is not an achievement, it is dangerous incompetence.
Many world leaders are accountable, but the US is leading the process and seems to be the most eager to reenter an agreement with Iran. It feels like the US’ goal is to have an agreement, rather than a permanently nuclear free Iran. If Iran perceives this, they can hold out indefinitely, negotiating in bad faith toward a worse agreement, all while continuing to build its nuclear weapons industry.
Iran has proven that it is not an honest player by any measure. No negotiation can be trusted. If Iran could be trusted, we wouldn’t be having a conversation about preventing it from getting nukes to begin with. Even as they negotiated the 2015 agreement, Iran’s nuclear weapons industry continued to work hard. Today, Iran has an estimated 25 kilos of uranium enriched to 60%. At least that’s what’s known. We don’t know what we don’t know. How many more kilos do they actually have? How much more is enriched even closer to weapons grade? It’s not like they’re reporting that in their free press.
Throughout the original negotiations, Iran claimed that they have a right to develop nuclear energy like any other country, and had no intent to build nuclear weapons. Heaven forbid. Yet there is no legitimate civilian use of uranium enriched to 60%.
The accommodation and appeasement of Iran’s bald face lies is hard to fathom, especially in the wake of hard evidence of Iran continuing to work toward getting nukes. While US and western leaders declare “not on my watch,” while nobody was watching, all Iran did was build and reinforce their nuclear weapons industry, deeper and harder. Literally.
The 2015 agreement emboldened Iran because of its appeasement. Iran was wooed into the agreement with a dowry of sanctions relief and cash prizes just for coming to the table. It is a disastrous legacy of Obama’s foreign policy. A positive one that he never intended, is the drawing closer of Israel and the Sunni Arab states. For Israel and the Sunni Arab states which are in the Iranian crosshairs most directly, the common Iranian threat has paved the path to peace and cooperation.
In recent months, as Iran has toyed with the west, continually delaying negotiations. As the Biden administration seems to bend over backwards just to want to negotiate, Iran has been fortifying deeper and harder. They’re progressing undeterred. Except for the occasional hack or mysterious death of one of their military leaders or nuclear scientists, such as that of senior Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the West’s agenda seems to be giving away the store, all while watching criminals pilfer here and there on a regular basis.
Throughout the Middle East, there’s a shuk (souk) culture that’s prevalent in the region’s markets. Like a beautiful dance, it’s well orchestrated as to how one shops, or sells. Arabs and Israelis know this. Some of the rules are that nobody pays the asking price. Negotiations must be tough but respectful, ultimately toward a deal that both parties walk away happy, albeit even if still wondering if they could have gotten a better deal.
The Iranians know the rules too. When they see westerners ‘walking into the store,’ dressed in suits and ties, and agreeing to the asking price with hardly a Blinken of the eye, they must resist the urge to laugh uncontrollably while wiping up the saliva that runs freely. Applying the shuk culture to nuclear negotiations means keeping severe sanctions and credible military threats on the table, not using these as door prizes just for showing up.
It’s hard to believe that despite their claims otherwise, Biden/Blinken are prepared to exert any real pressure on the Iranians for not complying, or that the Iranians don’t perceive their strategic advantage.
It’s not insignificant that the negotiations are beginning on November 29. That’s the date, in 1947, when the UN voted to establish Israel as a state. The same UN today is turning a blind eye on the genocidal threats by Iran to destroy its member state. Albeit that it’s God, not the UN, that gives authority for Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel, it’s a good reminder to all in Vienna this week that Israel will certainly not take it lying on its back, and in the face of continued appeasement or incompetence, Israel will have a Plan B.