JCPOA 2.0, coming any day now

Why is the Biden administration so locked-in to doing a deal, almost at any price, with the Iranians? The answer is threefold: pretentious, practical, and partisan. The partisan? All for the greater glory of the ghost of Obama.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, August 19, 2022; and in abridged form in Israel Hayom, August 25, 2022. Print-friendly copy

Cartoon: Shay Charka, Makor Rishon.

The Biden administration remains hell-bent on concluding another catastrophic, soft nuclear deal with the ayatollahs of Iran. Announcement of the deal may be just several days away.

President Biden will find a way to excuse even the most unreasonable and irresponsible arrangement with Iran.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – Mark 2.0 will not put Iran’s atomic program “back in the box,” as US national security advisor Jake Sullivan had promised. Instead, it will further pave Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb in the coming years.

The “new” deal will maintain the original JCPOA’s rotten sunset clauses; will whitewash all of Iran’s nuclear program violations to-date (like enriching uranium to the 60% level); allow Iran to keep its nuclear enrichment infrastructure and other military weaponization projects; will not guarantee “anytime and anywhere” inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of Iranian nuclear installations; and will not allow for the “snapback” of Western sanctions.

Apparently, the deal also will bow to a key Iranian demand, that the IAEA close its probes into manufactured nuclear material found at three undeclared Iranian sites. The latest EU draft for a renewed JCPOA deal bends on this matter, proposing that the West “take note of Iran’s intent” to resolve its dispute with the IAEA by the time the JCPOA comes back into force. This is another way of saying that the West expects the IAEA to close its probes and not block the new deal.

Biden also will not get additional negotiations towards a “longer and stronger” deal before the sunset clauses kick-in – something that the Biden administrated had promised the Israeli and American publics when it set-out its goals. Just the opposite: JCPOA 2.0 will be “shorter and weaker” than President Obama’s dreadful 2015 deal with the ayatollahs.

Most chilling of all, the deal will grant Iran hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, allowing Tehran to rehabilitate its economy and continue funding its terrorist proxies and hegemonic aggressions. The latest EU draft for the deal even would allow non-Americans to trade with Iranian entities that do business with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). (As it stands now, such transactions would trigger penalties by the US.)

And of course, JCPOA 2.0 will say nothing about Iran’s hegemonic, terrorist activities across the Mideast and around the world. It will ignore the recently revealed IRGC conspiracy to assassinate on American soil two very senior Trump administration officials (former National Security Adviser John Bolton and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo) and Iranian dissident Masih Alinejad. It will ignore the attempted killing last week of Salman Rushdie, based on a death sentence decreed by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989.

It will ignore Iranian drone attacks on the American military base in Al-Tanf in eastern Syria, and on American allies in the Gulf. And it will ignore Iranian support for Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Hezbollah threats and assaults on Israel.

In short, instead of reimposing maximum economic pressure and building a credible military threat against Iran, Biden will surrender to Iran. And then Biden will tell us that he has brought peace to the Mideast.

“The attempt to accommodate Ayatollah Khamenei’s Iran will be no more successful than accommodating Vladimir Putin’s Russia,” warns Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi. It is entirely reasonable to assume that Iran is seeking the protection that nuclear weapons clearly provide Russia to impose its will on its neighborhood, and to do so with impunity.

GIVEN THE CLEAR and present dangers posed by such American capitulation, why is President Biden obsessively grinding towards sign-off on this? Why is his administration so locked-in to doing a deal, almost at any price, with the Iranians?

The answer is threefold: pretentious, practical, and partisan.

The pretentious is the administration’s self-deception that Iran sees the world the same way that the US does; that Iran wants to be accepted among the nations and cooperate with the world. As John Bolton had written, this is the classic diplomatic fallacy of “mirror-imaging.”

But that is the heart of the problem. “The US has sought to engage a regime that clearly doesn’t want to be engaged, and to isolate a ruling regime that thrives in isolation,” says Carnegie Endowment Iran expert Karim Sadjapour.

Furthermore, the US believes it can seal off issues into separate compartments – Iran’s nuclear program compartmentalized in one silo and its terrorist activities in another. But Tehran views the world totally differently. The ayatollahs’ malevolence is comprehensive – with nuclear weapons, assassinations, and terrorist militias all elements in their full spectrum of capabilities on the way to regional dominance and ultimately the downfall of America and the West.

The practical is that five US presidents in a row have sworn to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear military power. Therefore, Biden desperately wants to believe that diplomacy can settle the matter; or at least that diplomacy can delay the Iranian bomb until the matter is some next administration’s problem. This is called kicking the can down the road. Hence, Biden is bound-and-determined to do a deal with Tehran that somehow can be passed-off as momentarily sufficient.

Alas, as a matter of foreign policy principle, the Democratic world is no longer truly willing to consider the use of military force against Iran or any other foe, probably including Russia and China. It even is not willing to build a credible military threat against Iran, never mind crush Iran militarily with real strategic bombers. So, what’s left is lying to itself that Robert Malley (the chief US negotiator, long considered a sop for Hamas and for Iran) has “solved” the problem with a flimsy piece of paper.

Finally, and foremost, the Biden administration seeks partisan political revenge. It is unwaveringly wedded to reclaiming former president Obama’s lost honor. It is zealously committed to redeeming Obama’s signature foreign policy “achievement,” the 2015 JCPOA nuclear agreement with Iran, which President Trump unceremoniously savaged and jettisoned.

Don’t underestimate the fervor involved in recouping Obama’s diplomatic “legacy” from the dustbin of history. For members of Biden’s national security team, almost all of whom served Obama loyally and lovingly, this is an unconditional crusade. Restoring the JCPOA means retroactive vindication for Obama and ultimate repudiation of Trump.

Thus, in today’s hyper-partisan American political atmosphere getting back to the JCPOA is no less than a sacred goal. It is the Holy Grail! Which is why Biden is going for broke. He will do everything, including making the most wildly nonsensical concessions to Iran, to ensure this.

Unfortunately, the Iranians know this well, so they have Biden bent over the side of a barrel. They know that Biden will give them their billions and let them keep their nuclear infrastructure too, all for the greater glory of the ghost of Obama.

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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