Biden’s team has even less backbone than Obama’s, which was spineless. After all the Trump accomplished in terms of promoting the US agenda (and Trump’s team wasn’t perfect, I know). mrossol
WSJ 11/29/2021 by the Editorial Board
The Iran nuclear talks resume on Monday in Austria, and pessimism seems to be the order of the day. Iran refuses to make concessions, while the U.S. is signaling that its patience may be limited. But don’t underestimate the Biden Administration’s desire for a deal—any deal.
For months the U.S. has been all but begging Iran to return to the table, though the U.S. won’t literally even be at the table in Vienna. Iran refuses to talk to the U.S. directly, so American negotiators must work through European intermediaries. The U.S. seems undeterred by this intentional humiliation.
Since Iran walked away from talks earlier this year, Tehran has elevated an even more hardline president and accelerated its enrichment of nuclear fuel. Iran has also continued to restrict international inspectors’ access to its nuclear sites. Rafael Mariano Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, reported last week that talks about verification have “proved inconclusive”—diplomatic-speak for they failed.
Uranium particles found at three locations that Iran hasn’t declared to the agency are cause for alarm. Mr. Grossi said this “is a clear indication that nuclear material and/or equipment contaminated by nuclear material has been present at these locations.” The U.S. and its European allies have declined to censure Iran for refusing to cooperate.
They’re hoping the talks will yield concessions, perhaps with the inducement of more U.S. sanctions relief. Iranian diplomats are demanding that any deal will remain in force beyond President Biden’s tenure. And they won’t commit to anything beyond a return to the 2015 deal struck by President Obama. That deal allowed Iran sufficient leeway to advance on the path to a weapon with limited inspections, which is why Donald Trump withdrew in 2018.
The latest reports are that the U.S. has floated the idea of an interim accord that would give more time to negotiate a larger deal. The interim accord would offer sanctions relief to Iran in return for some restraint on Iranian enrichment on nuclear fuel. This sounds like what Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies calls a “less for more” deal—that is, less restraint on Iran than in the 2015 deal in return for more sanctions relief.
The signs are that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and new President Ebrahim Raisi have no intention of slowing their march to the brink of a bomb. They may offer token concessions for sanctions relief, but they will continue to hide their nuclear development from inspectors. China is now openly buying Iranian oil in defiance of U.S. sanctions, and the U.S. doesn’t seem to care.
Tehran is also escalating support for terror attacks in the region. U.S. officials say Iran was responsible for a drone attack on a U.S. base in Syria last month, and Iraqi officials believe an Iran-backed militia was behind the attempt to kill Iraq’s prime minister this month.
All of which suggests that all of Team Biden’s entreaties have merely made Iran more determined to demand a deal that is even weaker than Mr. Obama’s. Such an agreement will reassure no one beyond the spreaders of revolution in Tehran.
Appeared in the November 29, 2021, print edition.