Once again we are hearing that Iran and the West have succeeded in narrowing their differences on the nuclear deal. Iran’s negotiator, Ali Bagheri Kani, said that the sides were “closer than ever”, while the US said it was in the “very final stages” of indirect talks.
Given high levels of mistrust between the sides, it is still highly likely that all this will fall apart at the last minute. However, the unguarded optimism being expressed by both sides suggests that prospects of progress should be taken seriously.
The draft agreement reportedly requires a phased return to the 2015 nuclear deal; with both sides taking interim steps to build trust by limiting enrichment and lifting certain sanctions.The problem is that the 2015 deal allowed Iran to engage in some nuclear activities, and that limitations on enrichment were actually due to expire in the next few years, making the provisions of the deal as they stand in 2022 almost meaningless.
Furthermore; the US’s willingness to remain within the parameters of the 2015 deal means ignoring the hundreds of thousands of Iran-backed militia personnel stationed all across the region; as well as Iran’s massive missile programmes.
None of this is academic. In recent weeks Iran-sourced missiles and explosive drones have been deployed against airports, economic infrastructure and civilian targets in the UAE; while the Iran-backed Houthis have fired hundreds of missiles into Saudi Arabia. The region is literally under attack, but the Biden Administration choses to ignore this.
The fact that one of the provisions of the deal is releasing all Western hostages held in Iran only teaches the Ayatollahs that hostage taking always works. Expect large numbers of foreigners to be abducted in the aftermath of any such deal, in a climate where Iran will believe that it can behave however it likes.
There had been indications that US diplomats desired to get tough on Iran. However, the likelihood that Russia will invade Ukraine any day seems to have caused Western states to forget about everything else going on in the world. Are the huge ministries of foreign affairs in all these nations unable to process more than one crisis at a time?
A nuclearized Iran could literally do what it liked and nobody would dare to act. What would the West do if – like Saddam Hussein – Iranian paramilitaries chose to amass inside southern Iraq and attack a GCC state like Kuwait? Nobody would dare to respond because of the danger that Tehran could strike Tel Aviv with nuclear weapons, or a number of other targets in the region or even Europe.
Tens of millions of dollars of Iranian funds are being held around the world. After 2015 when such funds were previously unfrozen, Iran-backed terrorist paramilitaries had a major bonanza! Iran sent tens of thousands of paramilitaries to Syria where they murdered hundreds of thousands of Syrians and kept the genocidal Bashar al-Assad in power. Similar dynamics played out in Yemen and Iraq. We should be expecting more of the same.
Iran is merely seeking to waste the West’s time while it continues to enrich uranium to higher levels. Iran reportedly only requires a matter of weeks if it chooses to attain nuclear breakout capacity. We are long past the time for negotiations, and at the point where action needs to be taken.
Iran in 1981, during the 1990s and in 2011 has repeatedly tried to stage a coup in Bahrain. It sponsored a long running campaign of terrorism in the Kingdom in recent years based on a number of émigré extremists based in Qom. Iran’s leaders are even on record claiming that Bahrain is an Iranian province and should be annexed. We know what Iranian aggression looks like.
A bad deal which allows European companies to re-engage with Iran as if all problems are solved; is worse than no deal, where global powers are forced to take action. From everything we know, the deal on the table is set to be a very bad deal.
If Western states want to prevent a nuclear race in the Middle East and want to stop Iranian paramilitary armies from occupying more Arab states, then we are long past time for a new strategy.