Time to end diplomacy with Iran and admit Trump was right

There is only one course of action after the disastrous resumption of nuclear talks with Iran in Vienna this week and the sharp increase in Iran’s belligerence: end the talks and resume the Trump administration’s policy of harsh sanctions and isolating Iran.

On Monday, world powers met in Vienna for the sixth round of talks this year to discuss how to revive the deeply flawed nuclear deal with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). That is, all major powers except for the United States because Iran refuses to meet face-to-face with U.S. diplomats. As a result, the American delegation participated “indirectly” from a nearby hotel.

After the Monday meeting, Enrique Mora, the European Union official who chairs the talks, tried to put a good face on the session, calling it “extremely positive” with all participants showing “a sense of urgency” to revive the JCPOA.

But in fact, this week’s talks were a catastrophe for diplomatic efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Iran demanded that all U.S. sanctions imposed since 2017 be lifted, including on non-nuclear issues like terrorism, and made no commitment to halting the huge surge in its nuclear weapons program this year.

Iran also demanded that if the JCPOA is revived and the U.S. rejoins it, the United States must pledge that it will never withdraw from this agreement again, a commitment that is politically impossible for any U.S. president to make.

And just prior to the talks, Iranian Brig. Gen. Abolfazl Shekarchi, the spokesman for Iran’s armed forces, reiterated Iran’s determination to wipe Israel off the map when he said: “We will not back off from the annihilation of Israel, even one millimeter. We want to destroy Zionism in the world.”

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett expressed Israel’s grave concerns about this round of the Vienna talks in a video statement to the participants in which he warned that Iran is seeking “to end sanctions in exchange for almost nothing” and keep its nuclear program intact while receiving hundreds of billions of dollars once sanctions are lifted. Bennet added that if JCPOA parties agree to this, “Iran won’t just keep its nuclear program; from today, they’ll be getting paid for it.”

Bennett has good reason to be concerned since Biden officials are actively considering a partial, temporary nuclear deal that would give Iran some sanctions relief in exchange for Iran freezing or rolling back parts of its nuclear program. Israel and many members of the U.S. Congress have rejected this approach as giving into Iranian blackmail.

Biden officials appear to have raised a partial nuclear deal with Iran in response to the surge in its nuclear program and defiance of IAEA inspectors since the start of the Biden presidency. Since January, Iran has denied the IAEA access to uranium mines and a plant that makes nuclear centrifuge parts. Iran also refuses to cooperate with the agency’s investigations into enriched uranium traces found at three undeclared nuclear sites.

In addition, the IAEA recently reported that Iran physically harassed female inspectors.

Iran’s nuclear weapons program has made major advances since January.

Iran’s nuclear weapons program has made major advances since January. Iran enriched uranium to 60% uranium-235 for the first time this year, a level that is very close to weapons grade. Israeli intelligence recently informed the United States and several European states that Iran could soon start producing weapons-grade enriched uranium.

European diplomats warned on Tuesday that the talks could be terminated if Iran moved to produce weapons-grade nuclear fuel.

Iran engaged in other belligerent acts this year that Biden officials do not want to talk about. Iran launched a drone attack on an oil tanker in late July and an attempted hijacking of an oil tanker in early August. The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels continue to make advances in Yemen and recently breached the compound that once housed the U.S. Embassy and detained Yemeni employees of the American government. Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi escaped an assassination attempt early this month when drones armed with explosives attacked his residence. Iranian-backed Shiite militias are believed to have conducted this attack.

It is time for the Biden administration to end this charade. While Biden’s efforts to revive the JCPOA made little sense, Iran never showed any interest in this. Instead, Tehran massively surged its nuclear program after Biden assumed office to force the United States to buy it off for a temporary and meaningless freeze that it would never abide by. Iran’s other belligerent behavior indicates that it is not interested in diplomacy or cooperation.

Fortunately, Biden officials have begun to realize there is no diplomatic solution – at least at this time – to the Iranian nuclear program and that the only approach is returning to President Trump’s “Maximum Pressure” policy of tough sanctions and diplomatic isolation.

It will be tough for President Biden to implicitly concede that Trump was right about Iran and approve this so-called “Plan B” approach since he and his fellow Democrats excoriated Trump for withdrawing from the JCPOA, which they continue to claim was a good and effective agreement. Biden also assured the American people during the campaign that he would succeed in countering the threat from Iran’s nuclear program through multilateral diplomacy.

Facts on the ground often interfere with campaign promises.

The huge 2021 surge in Iran’s nuclear weapons program is a fact.

Iran’s refusal to negotiate in good faith to end this program is a fact.

It is a fact that the nuclear talks are going nowhere and are only buying Iran time to continue its nuclear weapons program.

It also is a fact that there has been a significant increase in other dangerous and belligerent behavior by Iran.

And it is a fact that unless we want to go to war with Iran, President Trump’s Maximum Pressure campaign is the only way to deal with Iran’s nuclear program, its support of terrorism, and its efforts to destabilize the Middle East.

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