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The Biden administration’s worst mistake in resuming negotiations with Iran is that—like the Obama administration—it excludes the cessation of a wide range of affronts, ranging from Iranian support for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah to the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program associated with the nuclear weapon program, from the conditions for lifting sanctions on Tehran.
After a satellite launch Iran’s government news agency, Afkar News, announced that, “The same type of ballistic missiles used to launch the satellite could carry nuclear, chemical or even biological weapons to wipe Israel off the map, attack U.S. bases and U.S. allies in the region and target NATO in Europe.” In the same report, Afkar News stressed that “Iran has shown that it can target the entire American territory.”
Tehran vastly expanded its ICBM intercontinental ballistic missile program following the weak 2015 nuclear deal, ignoring the UN Security Council resolution which stated that Iran “shall not undertake any activities related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using ballistic missile technology, and States shall take all necessary measures to prevent the transfer of technology or technical assistance related to such activities to Iran.”
But the bigger problem is that like the failed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (1), the new agreement sought by the Biden administration would not even attempt to permanently halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program, but would weakly limit itself to delay it for a few years. As with the weak deal signed by Obama and abandoned by Trump, this new agreement would ensure that Tehran finally has an arsenal of nuclear warheads for its ICBMs.
Washington is putting a 25-year completion period on the table, although it is obvious that, with support from Russia and acquiescence from France, Germany and the European Union, Tehran will succeed in reducing it to 15 years or less. As shown by previous experience, the Islamic republic will not comply with anything without effective sanctions supporting a monitoring scheme as demanded by the Trump administration.
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Biden did not need to lift any sanctions to start the new round of negotiations with Tehran. The government of Ebrahim Raisi—nicknamed “the Butcher of Tehran” because of his responsibility in the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in 1988—was who actively sought to rework the nuclear weapon deal to get rid of sanctions whose effects have compromised the stability of the authoritarian fundamentalist regime.
But Washington began by lifting some sanctions and is now offering to remove all remaining sanctions on the first day of the new agreement. Without sanctions, Iran would fully rejoin the international community and fully resume its oil exports. Without sanctions to compromise the stability of the fundamentalist Iranian regime, Washington will simply have no leverage to force Tehran to comply with even the weak deal Biden seeks.
The current president is repeating Obama’s mistakes in 2015 one by one, when Tehran got an easy-to-violate deal and the four rounds of UN sanctions, which had taken decades of a diplomatic effort to agree and implement, were lifted completely on the first day.
So when Tehran is again found to be violating the new agreement as it did with the old one, Washington will find itself in the same scenario of 2020. Recall that at that time, when the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that Iran was violating the nuclear pact, Washington was faced with opposition from Russia and China and a lack of support from France, the UK and Germany to impose new sanctions on Iran.
The deal the Biden administration is betting on with Tehran will destabilize the Middle East by not requiring Iran to cease to support terrorism, and will easily provide that country new nuclear weapons after a period of exclusion that they are likely to violate. The Islamic regime will reach the nuclear threshold secretly sooner or openly later, but it will reach it. It will be an Iran with its own ICBMs and will be able to produce the enriched uranium to eventually place nuclear warheads on its missiles in ten weeks.
Guillermo Rodríguez is a professor of Political Economy in the extension area of the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences at Universidad Monteávila, in Caracas. A researcher at the Juan de Mariana Center and author of several books // Guillermo es profesor de Economía Política en el área de extensión de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Administrativas de la Universidad Monteávila, en Caracas, investigador en el Centro Juan de Mariana y autor de varios libros