The lengths to which some naive politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are prepared to go to revive the Iran nuclear deal is nothing less than shameful... Hopefully, the more Iran refuses to cooperate with international bodies such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the more it will become clear that any hopes of securing a new deal with Tehran would not only upend the region but President Biden's legacy as well. Pictured: IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi (L) meets with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Tehran on March 5, 2022. (Photo by Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)
The utter futility of the Biden administration's obsession with reviving the Iran nuclear deal has been laid bare by the latest damning assessment by the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog.
US President Joe Biden has indicated to Tehran that he is willing to rejoin the deal so long as Iran agrees to fall back into compliance with the terms of the original Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated by the former Obama administration in 2015.
That would require Iran to accept the limits imposed on its stockpiles of nuclear material by the JCPOA instead of continuing with its efforts to produce weapons-grade material. According to the latest assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N.-sponsored body responsible for monitoring the ayatollahs' nuclear activities, Tehran continues to defy Washington by converting some of its uranium stockpiles to near weapons-grade, thereby greatly enhancing the regime's ability to produce nuclear warheads.
Despite Tehran's continued defiance, the Biden administration remains committed to reviving the deal, and is even reported to be exploring ways to meet Iran's outrageous demand that Washington removes its long-standing designation of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist entity from the State Department's Foreign Terrorist Organization list.
Mr Biden's hopes of pressing ahead with the nuclear talks suffered a significant setback the other week when a bipartisan super-majority of US Senators voted to endorse a Republican-led measure insisting that any future agreement with Tehran must address Iran's support for terrorism in the region, and that Washington should not lift sanctions against the IRGC. Tehran is unlikely to concede to either measure.
Moreover, bipartisan opposition to a revived deal is likely to increase further following this week's stark warning by the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog who said he was "extremely concerned" about what he described as Iran's lack of cooperation regarding unexplained traces of uranium in the country.
As part of the IAEA's efforts to revive the deal, Rafael Grossi, the organization's director general, has been trying to persuade Iran to explain the existence of traces of uranium found at several undeclared sites in Iran.
Mr Grossi has reported that, instead of responding to the IAEA's request for further information, Iran "has not been forthcoming" with details of its undeclared activities.
In a briefing to the European Parliament earlier this week, Mr Grossi explained that in the last few months IAEA inspectors "were able to identify traces of enriched uranium, in places that had never been declared by Iran as places where any activity was taking place".
"The situation does not look very good," he said. "Iran, for the time being, has not been forthcoming in the kind of information we need from them... we are extremely concerned about this."
Iran's refusal to clarify the true extent of its undeclared nuclear activities is entirely consistent with the uncooperative stance it has adopted in its dealing with the IAEA over many years.
Mr Grossi's stark warning, therefore, that Tehran is still up to its old tricks so far as UN inspectors are concerned, is likely to harden opposition in Congress to any attempt by the Biden administration to press ahead with a new deal regardless.
His stern words should also serve as a wake-up call to European leaders who remain committed to reviving the deal, irrespective of Iran's non-cooperation.
In an interview with London's Financial Times earlier this week, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he was seeking a "middle way" to end the impasse.
In an indication of how desperate the Europeans are to revive the deal, Mr Borrell said the EU was giving serious consideration to the ludicrous proposition whereby the terrorist designation against the IRGC was lifted, but kept in place on other parts of the organisation, which has several arms across the security apparatus and a sprawling business empire.
The EU initiative is not dissimilar to other hare-brained options being considered by the Biden White House, with analysts recommending that one compromise option for the US is to lift the terrorist designation against the IRGC while keeping it on the Quds Force, the unit responsible for the IRGC's foreign operations and which arms and backs militant groups throughout the Middle East.
The lengths to which some naive politicians on both sides of the Atlantic are prepared to go to revive the nuclear deal is nothing less than shameful, especially at a time when the world is struggling to deal with another tyrannical regime following Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Hopefully, the more Iran refuses to cooperate with international bodies such as the IAEA, the more it will become clear that any hopes of securing a new deal with Tehran would not only upend the region but the president's legacy as well.
Con Coughlin is the Telegraph's Defence and Foreign Affairs Editor and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at Gatestone Institute.