Negotiations are said to be going well in Vienna to get the U.S. to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran (the JCPOA) and convince Iran to reverse steps it took to back out of the agreement in response to former President Trump’s 2018 withdrawal. They could result in an agreement this summer.
Not only will such an agreement reinstate the deeply flawed Obama-era deal, without holding Iran accountable for cheating on its commitments. Any terms will provide the ayatollahs with a huge financial windfall worth over $150 billion when President Biden lifts the more than 2,000 sanctions that Mr. Trump imposed on the regime. Tehran is certain to spend these funds just like it did with the $150 billion in sanctions relief it received as part of the JCPOA in 2016: increasing its military budget, support of terrorist proxies, and meddling in regional crises.
Making this worse, Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi confirmed this week that Iran will not agree to the Biden administration’s proposed “Phase Two” talks that would follow a U.S. return to the JCPOA, the purpose of which would be to strengthen the nuclear deal, and address Iran’s missile program as well as its destabilizing activities in the Middle East and support for terrorism.
But there is a new wrinkle in Mr. Biden’s Obama-like effort to appease the state sponsor of terrorism: The Iranian government wants a guarantee from the U.S. that it won’t exit the JCPOA again and reimpose sanctions in the future.
From my almost 20 years working as a CIA analyst, I learned to be careful about speculation and predicting the future. But in this instance, I can guarantee with 100% certainty that unless there is a sea change in Iran’s belligerent behavior, the next Republican president will immediately reverse Mr. Biden’s appeasement to rejoin the JCPOA and reimpose the Trump sanctions.
This is an easy call. Mr. Biden’s Iran policy is completely divorced from the reality of increasing threats from Iran and its proven violations of the JCPOA, whose supposed intent is to prevent the mullahs from developing nuclear weapons.
Bipartisan criticism of Mr. Biden is growing for his desperation to rejoin the nuclear deal. This criticism will worsen when security in the Middle East collapses after Iran is no longer shackled by the Trump sanctions.
The Iranian regime has an excellent intelligence network in Washington. I suspect that Iran is aware that Mr. Biden has alienated Republicans on this issue, and the regime is therefore pressing the visibly weak president to create some kind of legal prohibition that would bind the hands of a future American president from being able to withdraw the U.S. from JCPOA and reimpose sanctions again.
Iran’s leaders don’t understand how American democracy works and that unpopular decisions imposed on our country by a president from one political party are usually quickly reversed when a candidate from the other party wins the White House.
Biden officials are certain to try to finesse this issue to convince Iran that any agreement will force future presidents to keep America committed to his policies. They will probably argue the Republican Party is not likely to win a presidential election in the foreseeable future by repeating Mr. Biden’s claims at the G-7 summit that the Republican Party “is vastly diminished in numbers,” its leadership “is fractured,” and that the Trump wing is the bulk of the party, but it makes up “a significant minority of the American people.”
The world doesn’t believe this. Neither does Iran. They know Mr. Biden is basically an accidental president who has proved divisive and weak. They know Mr. Biden’s bungling of U.S. foreign policy, border security and the economy makes it increasingly likely that a Republican will win the 2024 election. Iran’s leaders therefore have reasoned, “why should we waste our time negotiating a nuclear agreement with a U.S. president who already looks like a lame duck?”
So ironically, by asking for an impossible guarantee that the U.S will not again withdraw from the JCPOA or reimpose sanctions, Iran’s leaders may unwittingly keep the U.S. out of this terrible nuclear deal. But more important, by doing so, Iran’s leaders will be doing the United States a favor by protecting America and the world from Mr. Biden’s incompetence.
• Fred Fleitz, president of the Center for Security Policy, served in 2018 as deputy assistant to the president and to the chief of staff of the National Security Council. He previously held national-security jobs with the CIA, the DIA, the Department of State and the House Intelligence Committee staff. Twitter @fredfleitz.
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