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Biden’s six-step strategy to rejoin the Iran nuclear agreement

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The return to the 2015 Iran agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a fait accompli. For a successful negotiation, you need two parties who want to make a deal, and that is what today between Tehran and Washington under the Biden administration.

The Biden administration has been clear that it wants to return to the nuclear agreement as long as Iran complies with its specifications. With two willing partners, all that remains is the theatrics to make it look as if Iran has stood firm against America, while the Biden administration claims a new, cosmetically improved deal that tackles the flaws of the original. The promise of additional negotiations with more restrictions on Iran’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development will be championed as a great victory to reassure allies and create regional stability.

President Biden can — and likely will — sell this to Americans who remain skeptical of the deal in six easy steps:

  • First, consult with Israel, something the Obama administration did not do, to show that you are taking your allies’ interests to heart.
  • Second, go through the dance of many months of “tough negotiations” with Iran.
  • Third, make some superficial changes behind the scenes that Iran will agree to, claiming they are significant improvements in the deal for America and its allies.
  • Fourth, get pro-Israel Democrats on board to defend this “new and improved plan.”
  • Fifth, get the liberal mainstream media to proclaim the virtues of the new deal.
  • Sixth, work with media and Senate allies to claim that anyone against this deal is a warmonger.

So, how can the American people independently assess whether the rhetoric in defense of the deal is convincing? Here is the litmus test: 

We will know that there are no significant changes in the “new” JCPOA if the sunset provisions allowing Iran to have an industrial-size nuclear program in 10 years remains in place. We will know it is more smoke and mirrors if inspections are still not allowed at military facilities where weaponization is likely to occur. Our skepticism should rise if inspectors are not allowed 24/7 access to declared and undeclared nuclear sites, and all inspections will end in 10 years.

Then we can judge whether the agreement has been simply repackaged for political consumption with the same flawed product inside or is something with substantive changes.

Hard-liners in Iran desire a return to the agreement negotiated with the Obama administration, to remove onerous sanctions that threaten their hold on power. The charade that some Western media play along with is that this year’s — or any year’s — elections in Iran are a genuinely competitive contest between “moderates” and “hard-liners.” They will claim it is in America’s interest to negotiate with the moderates when, in truth, it is merely a contest between two groups of hard-liners.  

Western negotiators claim that more flexibility is afforded by negotiating with moderates such as the smiling face of Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who outsmarted American negotiators. If Biden’s negotiators are honestly negotiating a “new” deal, it probably will be more beneficial to negotiate with the real face of Iran, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and the more apparent hard-liners. It was revealed years afterward that the Obama team purposely misled the American people, claiming progress occurred when they negotiated with moderates. In reality, negotiations began in 2012 with the hard-liners, two years before “moderate” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was elected in 2014.

Both moderates and hard-liners will be hand-picked by the Guardian Council that is subservient to Khamenei. Western negotiators are fooling themselves and the American people by claiming that the next president of the Islamic Republic of Iran has independence from the whims of Khamenei. His absolute power is sanctified in the doctrine of Wilayat al-Faqih, where all Shiites must bow to the Ayatollah’s providence, even if they are the president of Iran. 

Moderate Democrats claim Biden is much more reasonable and sympathetic to Israel’s existential concerns than was President Obama when he secretly negotiated with Iran in Oman. Is this true? On a rhetorical level, yes, but the question is, will Biden be able to follow through on his rhetoric? 

In 2009, President Obama chose Dennis Ross to be the State Department envoy to Iran, a true moderate whom the Israelis trusted. In 2021, Biden has selected Robert Malley, an enthusiastic pro-agreement negotiator, to be his point person on Iran. He is considered to be sympathetic to Iran’s position, has a history of harsh criticism against Israel, and a history of cozying up to Hamas. It should be noted that Ross was reassigned in just a few months’ time when his balanced position didn’t jive with Obama’s outreach to Iran without reciprocity. Malley’s appointment should be considered a peace offering to Iran after President Trump’s maximum pressure campaign

Iran wants to return to the deal and will accept superficial changes as long as the original agreement’s substance remains. Sanctions relief would strengthen the regime’s hold on power, enabling the continued repression of the Iranian people. Missile development will continue, and Iran’s entrenchment in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen will be solidified with billions of dollars in relief and trade — making the chances more likely for another significant Middle East war.

Both Washington and Tehran will claim victory when a “new” deal is concluded. The mainstream U.S. media will reflexively cheer Biden’s agreement without serious analysis. The Biden administration will lobby hard with the media, expecting them to regurgitate the virtues of a “new and improved JCPOA,” much as the Obama team did in 2015. Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, masterminded the campaign to sell the nuclear agreement to the American public. In a New York Times interview, he later revealed that he purposely misled a compliant press to support the JCPOA, saying, “We created an echo chamber.”  

The Biden negotiators will claim the deal is indeed significantly better, rationalizing that this is the best we can expect. The losers will be the national security interests of the U.S. and its allies in the region.

Dr. Eric R. Mandel is the director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political Information Network. He regularly briefs members of the U.S. Senate, House, and their foreign-policy advisers. He is the  senior editor for “Security” at the Jerusalem Report/The Jerusalem Post.

Tags Ali Khamenei Criticism of the Iran nuclear deal Dennis Ross Donald Trump Joe Biden Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action US-Iran relations
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