New US-Israeli agreement to prevent Iranian nuclear bomb

How containing Iran became the common denominator of Biden’s first visit to the Middle East

JEDDAH/BOGOTA: When US President Joe Biden travels to Riyadh this week for talks with Arab leaders, the issue of global oil prices amid the war in Ukraine and the Western boycott of Russian hydrocarbons will undoubtedly figure prominently. good place on the agenda. But it will be the same for the question of Iran.

Indeed, what is common to all of the Middle Eastern allies Biden visits or attends the GCC+3 meeting is a shared desire to contain Iran’s malign extraterritorial activities and prevent the regime from get a nuclear weapon.

White House officials believe Iran may now possess enough fissile material and perhaps even the technology to arm and deliver a nuclear payload, giving the regime a strong negotiating hand in the negotiations.

Despite a concerted effort by the Biden administration to get Iran to comply with the 2015 nuclear deal – abandoned by his predecessor Donald Trump in May 2018 – indirect negotiations between the two sides have repeatedly come up against a roadblock.

Nonetheless, Biden has refused to lift sanctions on the Islamic republic until it returns to compliance with the deal.

In an op-ed for The Washington Post ahead of his visit to Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia this week, Biden pointed to the “rapid acceleration” of Iran’s nuclear program following Trump’s withdrawal from the deal.

“After my predecessor reneged on a nuclear deal that worked, Iran passed a law requiring the rapid acceleration of its nuclear program. Then, when the last administration sought to condemn Iran for this action in the Security Council of the UN, the United States has found itself isolated and alone,” Biden wrote on Saturday.

“We have come together with allies and partners in Europe and around the world to reverse our isolation; now it is Iran that is isolated until it reverts to the nuclear deal that my predecessor abandoned with no plan for what might replace it.

“Last month, more than 30 countries joined us in condemning Iran’s lack of cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency over its past nuclear activities. My administration will continue to increase diplomatic and economic pressure until Iran is ready to return to compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, as I remain ready to do.

Iran, meanwhile, has accused the Biden administration of inconsistency on the nuclear issue.

“Mr. Joe Biden’s emphasis on continuing the policy of economic and diplomatic pressure against Iran is at odds with the United States’ continued expression of willingness to revive the 2015 deal,” he said. Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani told AFP on Tuesday.

The US government, “despite its slogans and claims of returning to the deal…is following the same approach (of the previous administration) with continued sanctions and economic pressure”, he added. .

Analysts acknowledge that the Biden administration has upped the ante on Iran in recent weeks, but dispute that there has been a fundamental shift in policy.

“The US approach to Iran is changing tactically but not strategically at this point,” Jason Brodsky, policy director at United Against Nuclear Iran, told Arab News.

“Over the past few weeks, Washington has stepped up its enforcement of US sanctions. This is a change, as previously the Biden administration imposed sanctions under authorities that would not be lifted if the United States returned to the JCPOA.

“But in recent weeks, the United States has designated entities and individuals under Executive Order 13846, whose sanctions would be lifted in the event of a JCPOA bailout. So it’s a subtle signal to Iranian leaders that the Biden administration is stepping up the pressure.

“However, this pressure, according to the President’s latest op-ed, is directed toward compliance with the JCPOA, not a longer, stronger agreement. So it remains problematic and not something the Gulf Arab leaders and Israel will want to hear.

The Biden administration has been engaged in talks since April 2021 aimed at bringing the United States back to the nuclear deal, including lifting sanctions on Iran and ensuring Tehran’s full compliance with its commitments.

However, on-and-off nuclear talks held in the Austrian capital, Vienna, have stalled since March, with several unresolved issues between the United States and Iran.

In late June, Qatar organized indirect talks between the United States and Iran in an effort to get the Vienna process back on track, but those talks broke down after two days without a breakthrough.

Critics of the deal – which offers Tehran sanctions relief in return for curbing its nuclear program – have repeatedly said it does not go far enough to stop Iran from expanding its nuclear program. ballistic missiles, its navy from perpetrating acts of state-sponsored piracy, nor its support. for militia proxies throughout the region.

Tehran has long financed and equipped armed groups in neighboring Iraq. Militias have regularly attacked Western military personnel, diplomatic missions and the country’s civilian infrastructure, while seeking to overthrow its political institutions.

In Syria, Iran has sought to bolster Bashar Assad’s regime, sending advanced military equipment and mercenaries drawn from theaters of conflict across the region. Israeli defense officials fear that Tehran wants to use Syria as a launching pad to attack Israel.

Elsewhere in the region, Iran has long backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, deepening the country’s political paralysis and societal breakdown. And in Yemen, Iranian support for the Houthi militia has only served to prolong the war and the suffering of the Yemeni people.

These proxies and the territories in which they operate have been used to launch cross-border missile and drone attacks against civilian and oil infrastructure in both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Militias have also targeted commercial shipping in the region’s waterways.

Iran’s malign activities therefore threaten not only regional stability, but also freedom of navigation and the wider global economy.

Thus, critics of the JCPOA argue that the issue is much broader than just the nuclear issue and that any agreement with Tehran must also deter such activities.

“For nearly a decade, the JCPOA, introduced by the Obama and Biden administrations, has seen no change,” political analyst and international relations scholar Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News.

“They are still at a standstill because President Biden’s administration refuses to do anything to work towards finalizing a deal that could curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which in turn have become dangerous to the region through its agents.”

Given Tehran’s activities and rapid progress toward obtaining a nuclear weapon, many observers wonder if the JCPOA can be saved.

“I think the JCPOA is basically dead, but not buried yet,” Brodsky said. “He can still be revived, although the chances are very low.

“Iranian leaders are not under the degree of pressure they had before 2013 to revive the deal, with multilateral sanctions and a more credible threat of military force to destroy all of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure in place there. ‘era.

“That’s why he felt no urgency, capitalizing on high oil prices, lax enforcement of US sanctions and a calculation that whatever it does, the US and E3 (France, Germany and Italy) will never leave the negotiating table. The United States and its European allies must change this perception.

It is for this reason that Biden’s visit to the Middle East is seen as such a valuable opportunity to change course and deliver more aggressive deterrence, whether in the form of a new Air Defense Alliance of the Middle East (MEAD) to counter Iran militarily, or at the very least a more concerted effort to starve Iran of the funds it needs to fuel its proxies in the region.

“It is absolutely critical that the President demonstrate on this trip that Iran is not just a nuclear issue and is prepared to pursue an aggressive deterrence strategy aimed at countering its non-nuclear malign behavior. That’s what the region wants to hear from him,” Brodsky said.

“Initiatives like MEAD are necessary, but not sufficient. Interdiction, kinetic action aimed at repelling Iranian aggression and stemming the flow of money to Iran’s network of proxies and partners is absolutely essential. But the JCPOA funds these activities. It is this fundamental contradiction in American policy that the president must address.

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