US President Joe Biden must give serious consideration to abandoning his ill-conceived plan to revive the nuclear deal with Tehran following the election victory of Iran's new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi. Pictured: Biden (right, by Alex Wong/Getty Images) and Raisi (by Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Joe Biden must give serious consideration to abandoning his ill-conceived plan to revive the nuclear deal with Tehran following the election victory of Iran's new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi.
The appointment of the 60-year-old Mr Raisi as Iran's eighth president since the 1979 revolution means that, far from being prepared to make any further concessions in the nuclear talks, the regime under his leadership is certain to adopt a far more aggressive and uncompromising stance in its dealings with the US and its allies.
The hardening of Iran's position can already be detected in the recent upsurge in attacks against US personnel based in Iraq by pro-Iranian militias.
Following the latest attacks by Iranian-made drones against American targets in Iraq, Washington launched air strikes against Iranian-backed militias on the Syrian-Iraqi border this week, killing four members of the Iranian-backed Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada militia.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the American action was aimed at sending "a very important and strong message" to Iran to prevent further attacks by pro-Iran militias, which Washington believes are being carried out at the behest of Tehran to increase pressure on Washington as negotiations in Vienna continue, aimed at reviving the nuclear deal.
Mr Biden has previously said he wants to "strengthen and extend" the terms of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the controversial deal negotiated with Iran by the former Obama administration.
Apart from extending the restrictions on Iran's nuclear enrichment activities, which Western intelligence officials believe are aimed at producing nuclear warheads, the Biden administration has intimated that it would like a revived deal to include other aspects of Iran's military programme, such as the development of ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
The prospect of American negotiators achieving any further concessions from Tehran, following Mr Raisi's election victory, now looks exceedingly remote as hardline supporters of the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, seek to consolidate their grip on power.
Mr Khamenei and his backers in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have never shown much enthusiasm for the JCPOA, which was negotiated by the country's outgoing president, Hassan Rouhani, as a means of getting punitive US sanctions lifted. Iran never even signed the deal.
Mr Rouhani's approach did, initially, achieve its objectives after the Obama administration rewarded Tehran with an estimated $150 billion for signing the nuclear deal.
The agreement quickly unravelled, however, after the hardliners squandered the cash supporting Islamist terror groups throughout the Middle East instead of reviving the Iranian economy.
This failure prompted former US President Donald Trump to withdraw from the deal in 2018 and reimpose a sanctions regime designed to place "maximum pressure" on Tehran.
Mr Trump's policy has been a resounding success and had a devastating impact on the Iranian economy, with the value of the rial, the national currency, having halved in the past year, inflation running at 50 percent and the country facing widespread unemployment.
The latest report by the International Monetary Fund makes especially grim reading for the Iranian regime, as it shows the country's foreign reserves have collapsed from around $140 billion in 2015 to just $4 billion today.
Iran's perilous economic state has, unsurprisingly, prompted nationwide protests at the regime's gross mismanagement of the economy.
The regime's response has been to rig the presidential elections to guarantee victory for a hardline candidate who would maintain Tehran's violent repression of anti-government protesters.
With Mr Raisi's triumph, the hardliners have secured victory for a man with the perfect qualifications for crushing anti-regime dissent.
Having first come to prominence in the 1980s as a member of Iran's notorious "Death Commission," which sanctioned the summary execution of thousands of political activists, Mr Raisi has more recently headed the Iranian judiciary, in which capacity he has supported the brutal repression of anti-regime protesters.
Under his presidency, the Iranian people can expect more of the same, as the regime intensifies its efforts to tighten its hold on power.
Moreover, the emergence of the hardliners as the dominant force in Iranian politics is bad news for the Biden administration, as it makes the likelihood of Tehran making any significant concessions in the nuclear talks even more remote.
This certainly appears to be Mr Raisi's attitude, judging by the comments he made in his first press conference after his election victory this month. The new Iranian leader says he has no desire to meet with Mr Biden, and ruled out the possibility of expanding the terms of the nuclear deal. Mr Raisi added that neither his country's ballistic missile programme nor Tehran's support for militia groups across the Middle East were up for negotiation.
Mr Raisi's comments effectively mean that Mr Biden's hopes of expanding the terms of the nuclear deal are dead in the water. Consequently, rather than persisting with the nuclear talks in Vienna, the US leader should cut his losses, and end the charade of trying to revive the ill-considered nuclear deal with Tehran.
Con Coughlin is the Telegraph's Defence and Foreign Affairs Editor and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Gatestone Institute.