U.S. President Joe Biden’s attempt to negotiate with the Islamic Republic of Iran over its nuclear program has aroused deep concerns among U.S. allies in the region that Biden may bring the Iranian regime in from the cold by removing sanctions which have curbed its ability to extend its influence in the region.
During the 2020 election campaign, Biden repeatedly promised to reverse Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, negotiated during the Obama administration, and reimpose sanctions on Iran.
Biden claimed that America’s withdrawal gave Iran the green light to recommence uranium enrichment, which Iran announced that it would do, and promised to re-enter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the official title of the nuclear deal.
Although the agreement was co-signed by France and Germany as well as the United States, and America’s European allies remained committed to the deal, Iran used Trump’s withdrawal openly to breach the agreement.
According to the Iran Primer, the breaches included:
In July 2019, Iran surpassed the limits on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. It increased enrichment from 3.67 per cent to 4.5 per cent a week later.
In September 2019, it began using advanced centrifuges to enrich uranium.
In November 2019, Iran began enriching uranium at Fordo, an underground nuclear facility.
In November 2019, Iran surpassed the limits on its stockpile of heavy water.
In January 2020, Iran said it would not abide by restrictions on uranium enrichment.
In September 2020, Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium reached 2,105 kilograms, or about 10 times more than the limit set by the nuclear deal, according to the UN nuclear watchdog.
In January 2021, Iran resumed enriching uranium to 20 per cent at the Fordo facility.
In February 2021, Iran produced 3.6 grams of natural uranium metal. It was not permitted to manufacture uranium or plutonium metal until 2030 under the deal. Iran also blocked “snap” inspections of undeclared nuclear sites.
In March 2021, Iran began enriching uranium at the Natanz facility with advanced IR-4 centrifuges.
In April 2021, Iran began testing advanced IR-9 centrifuges and enriching uranium up to 60 per cent.
In July 2021, Iran took steps to produce enriched uranium metal.
Following Biden’s election, Iran responded that it would re-enter discussions, but declared that it would not accept the Biden Administration’s limits on its nuclear program, and demanded that Biden lift economic sanctions unilaterally.
Several rounds of negotiations have taken place, but there are several sticking points.
Iran has arrested several people with joint Iranian-American citizenship, and held them in prison without bringing them to trial. It is widely believed that the Iranian regime is using them as hostages, as happened to an Australian citizen, married to an Iranian dissident. Biden wants them freed.
Additionally, Iran’s actions since it ramped up uranium enrichment has brought forward its long-term capacity to develop nuclear weapons, which are a direct threat to Israel and, indirectly, a threat to rival Sunni Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia.
Iran has also ramped up its development of medium-range missiles, capable of carrying conventional and nuclear weapons. America wants Iran’s development of these missiles ended.
Politically, the Iranian leadership’s hostility to the United States was reinforced by recent elections in Iran in which a hardline supporter of the Iranian revolution, Ebrahim Raisi (pictured), the country’s chief justice, was elected as President, with 62 per cent of the popular vote.
Biden’s willingness to re-enter negotiations with Iran has been publicly criticised by American Republicans, Iranian exiles and Israel, which the Iranian regime has repeatedly threatened to destroy.
They fear that his repeated promises to re-enter the Iran nuclear deal will strengthen the hand of Iran’s Islamist leadership, which is engaged in a struggle to expand its influence in the Middle East and, more broadly, throughout the world.
According to one source, Washington has already tentatively agreed to the removal of key sanctions in the oil, gas, petrochemicals and automotive sectors, plus some of those on Iran’s banking sector, provided that clauses relating to Iran’s ballistic missile program are included in the deal.
Any such agreement might allow Biden to save face, but it will be at the expense of the West and Israel. What America should be doing is strengthening its existing allies in the Middle East – including Israel and Saudi Arabia – instead of negotiating with their sworn enemy.
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