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Scrap the Iran nuclear deal once and for all

Iran is showing little willingness to reestablish the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Michael Gruber/The Associated Press
A national flag of Iran waves in front of the building of the International Atomic Energy Agency, in Vienna, Austria.

Rapper Toomaj Salehi, actress Nazanin Boniadi, and the daily witness of thousands of like-minded Iranians rising up for freedom and dignity have made it clear that now is not the time to revive a nuclear deal that would entrench and legitimize Iran’s current regime.

The killing of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini by security forces in September laid bare the oppressiveness and brutality of Iran’s rulers, especially toward women. The regime’s willingness to kill protestors astounds, as an increasing number of teenage girls are killed for little more than voicing their opinions of how they want to dress. The United States and the European Union have responded to these human rights abuses with stronger sanctions. European decision-makers soon may follow America’s lead in classifying the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. This is the exact opposite of what Iran would demand in exchange for a revival of the 2015 nuclear deal, the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Then there are the Iranian drones in Ukraine, killing civilians and destroying critical energy production infrastructure, guaranteeing a brutal winter for many Ukrainians. The supply of drones violates the United Nations’ missile embargo on Iran, a central tenet of the JCPOA and its establishing mandate, UN Security Council resolution 2231. That violation will grow even more menacing if Iran delivers advanced ballistic missiles to Russia, which could well happen in the very near future.

Instead of negotiating with Iran, America and its allies must now take urgent steps to stop the regime’s human rights abuses, block its support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and prevent it from building nuclear weapons.  

First, the European parties to the JCPOA, with U.S. support, should move ahead with snapping back sanctions against Iran under the JCPOA. Once this process is completed, the world will revert to the 2015 status quo with more effective sanctions, a reinstated UN arms embargo, and an ongoing UN missile embargo. After a snapback, the U.S and the EU should rapidly intensify and better enforce U.S., British, and European Union sanctions on Iran for all its nefarious activities.  

Second, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) should be empowered to investigate and monitor Iran’s nuclear program more fully. Today, Iran can produce enough weapon-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon in less than two weeks, and the IAEA has demonstrated Iran’s violations of its commitment to fully declare its nuclear activities and maintain a purely peaceful nuclear program. Iran is steadfast in not cooperating with the inspectors, which suggests the regime is protecting a secret nuclear weapons program and waiting for the right time to build nuclear weapons. As a first step, Iran’s noncooperation and violations of its safeguards agreement should lead to an IAEA Board of Governors’ referral to the UN Security Council, further isolating Iran.

Third, the West must develop a credible strategy of deterrence by denial, including robust missile defense capabilities. These capabilities are woefully inadequate to confront Iran’s drone and missile fleets, whether in Ukraine, the eastern flank of NATO, or the Persian Gulf region.

Fourth, the Western powers should get serious about offensive military options to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities if Iran moves to divert nuclear material, kicks out the inspectors, withdraws from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or moves to build nuclear weapons.

Thankfully, the Biden administration appears to be recognizing that a new strategy is needed to deal with the Iranian regime. On Oct. 31, U.S. special envoy Robert Malley stated that the United States is not going to “waste time” on further negotiations with Iran for the time being.

However, the proof is in the pudding. Will President Biden suspend negotiations for a while, or will the administration scrap the JCPOA and commit to developing viable alternatives?

For too long, the United States and Europe have given the Iranian regime a free pass on human rights violations and regional meddling in the name of keeping Iran from building a nuclear weapon. But this approach has only strengthened the regime while failing to halt its development of advanced nuclear capabilities, putting Iran dangerously close to becoming a latent nuclear power, if not an open one.

Vladimir Putin reminds the world every day about the dangers of nuclear weapons in the hands of irresponsible and immoral regimes. The West must draw a firm line in the sand and get serious about preventing Putin’s Iranian henchmen from ever possessing nuclear weapons.

David Albright is the president of the Institute for Science and International Security and Henrik Rasmussen is the Institute’s executive director. Follow on Twitter @TheGoodISIS.

Tags Iran aggression Iran nuclear deal Iran protests Nuclear weapons

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