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It’s time to end the Iran nuclear deal once and for all

Associated Press
International Atomic Energy Organization Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, right, speaks with with Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, left, during a meeting in Tehran on March 5, 2022. Grossi met with Iranian officials as talks in Vienna over Iran’s tattered nuclear deal with world powers appeared to be reaching an end.

The nuclear agreement currently being finalized with Iran will directly endanger the national security of the United States and our regional partners. Having already offered Iran too many concessions and opportunities to take yes for an answer, the Biden administration is long overdue in walking away from this deal. If a deal nevertheless is reached, Congress must reject it. 

Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine already is making painfully clear what little can actually be done to confront naked aggression by a nuclear-armed adversary, even when America and many of its closest allies are resolutely united in the face of such clear and present threats.

And now, with Moscow playing a key role, the new nuclear agreement will ultimately enable Iran — for decades, the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans — to cast its own nuclear shadow over the Middle East.

Such a deal is too dangerous for America. That’s why we joined 46 retired U.S. generals and admirals in opposing it in an open letter organized by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).

Indeed, rather than a “longer and stronger” accord that safely confines Tehran “in a box,” as the Biden administration puts it, this new deal is even shorter and weaker than the original Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It will give Iran a legitimized, industrial-scale nuclear weapons program less than a decade from now.

When the Obama administration rolled out the initial deal in 2015, its core selling point was that Iran would need at least a year to produce enough fuel for a bomb. By contrast, Tehran’s “breakout time” under the new agreement would be only six to seven months, reflecting U.S. concessions that permit Iran to retain the advanced enrichment centrifuges it has improved significantly since it began serially violating the JCPOA in 2019.

And as President Obama acknowledged in 2015, this window closes steadily over the course of the agreement, thanks to Iran being allowed to build and operate more and more increasingly productive centrifuges. As he said then, this meant that “in year 13, 14, 15 … the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero.” Fast forward to 2022, and those timeframes have halved to a mere six to eight years, after which Iran can possess an unrestricted nuclear program and dash to a bomb without inspectors potentially ever detecting it.

But the new deal’s flaws extend well beyond its weak restrictions on Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Next year, it ends the U.N. Security Council ban on Tehran’s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of targeting the U.S. homeland. Within three years, the deal also removes the basis for any further United Nations sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program, without requiring it to divulge its covert efforts to build a bomb, even as Tehran continually flouts its legally-binding safeguards obligations.

By themselves, these lopsided concessions would make this deal untenable. But the new nuclear agreement also will give the radical regime in Tehran tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief which, as in the wake of the JCPOA, will fuel heightened regional aggression against U.S. soldiers, our national security interests and our allies — all at a time when American strategists must prioritize strategic competition with China and Russia. Making matters worse, Tehran’s ability to wreak havoc has advanced by leaps and bounds since 2015, thanks to significant improvements in its conventional missiles and drones, and its proliferation of these arsenals throughout the Middle East.

Yet Tehran has drawn an additional negotiating redline, unrelated to the nuclear deal itself, by demanding that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) be removed from the U.S. terrorist list. Any such move would weaken U.S. counterterrorism at home while also sending a dangerous signal to the Middle East about how America views the IRGC’s brutal expansion of Iranian military power in places like Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

This last issue also is a microcosm of the growing daylight between the United States and its main regional allies over the new nuclear deal and the Iran threat more generally. Perceived U.S. indifference to its partners’ acute security concerns, like what happened with the JCPOA, has already created worrisome blowback in the form of weak Middle East support for U.S. efforts to pressure Russia over Ukraine and build allied unity against Chinese encroachment. 

For all these compelling reasons, the United States should pursue hard-headed diplomacy, backed up by credible redlines against Iranian escalation, that would genuinely and verifiably end the threat posed by Tehran’s nuclear weapons program and roll back its regional aggression. We, therefore, urge President Biden and Congress to reject this dangerous nuclear deal. 

General Chuck Wald is a former deputy commander of U.S. European Command and a Distinguished Fellow at JINSA. Vice admiral John Bird commanded the U.S. 7th Fleet and is a member of JINSA’s Iran Policy Project. 

Tags Barack Obama Biden Iran nuclear program Iran nuclear talks Joe Biden Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Obama

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