Under the proposed renewed nuclear deal, Iran can legitimately commence operation of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges in two years, all the while working flat out to develop nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that, along with its terrorist activities, are not covered at all in the agreement. Pictured: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a press conference in Tehran on August 29, 2022. (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)
As Western governments quake in the face of Russian nuclear threats, they are on the verge of striking a deal that will give Iran that same power over them.
Even after six months of war in Europe, they cannot seem to grasp the parallels between the two. Putin risked invading Ukraine because of Western weakness and appeasement, naively welcoming Russia back into the family of nations after it devoured large parts of Ukraine in 2014, while at the same time filling its war chests with ever more billions of euros from energy exports to Europe.
Iran has been waging war non-stop on the West and its allies in the Middle East since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Appeasing Tehran by endorsing its nuclear programme and handing it billions of dollars from sanctions relief will likewise empower and encourage the ayatollahs to greater aggression even than hitherto. These are the effects of the proposed nuclear deal brokered by the EU, Russia and China. Why is it brokered by the EU, Russia and China? Because the United States was outrageously banned from direct negotiations by Tehran. It is not outrageous that Iran demanded it, but that the US tolerated its own exclusion.
The feeble mantra of the apologists for President Joe Biden's JCPOA 2.0, a desperate attempt to revive President Barack Obama's failed agreement from 2015 that paved the way to an Iranian nuclear bomb, is "a bad deal is better than no deal". Well, no it is not, and the deal that is about to emerge will be even worse. The argument of the "bad" dealers is that it buys time for the West, with Micawberish optimism that "something will turn up". This thinking is clear from Biden's preposterous hope that he can "lengthen and strengthen" the deal once it has been struck. But optimism is not a strategy and it certainly is not a strategy for dealing with a violent and volatile revolutionary regime dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state, which it sees as the proxy of its ultimate enemy, America.
While in office, Obama declared that Iran would not be allowed to build nuclear weapons on his watch. He must have known that the only way to prevent that was through military action or perhaps crippling sanctions, but was unwilling to do either and the result was the JCPOA, which kicked the problem down the road onto someone else's watch.
Unfortunately the road was short — and is now shorter still. The sunset clauses in Obama's JCPOA are not going to be extended in this new deal, and that means Tehran can legitimately commence operation of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges in two years, all the while working flat out to develop nuclear-capable ballistic missiles that, along with Iran's terrorist activities, are not covered at all in the agreement. At best Biden's new deal just boots the can down the road to his own successor.
The "buying time" argument, and indeed an argument for any agreement, only works if you do not understand Iran and are naive enough to believe the regime will honour what it agrees to. You only need to look across the border at the equivalent jihadist entity next door in Afghanistan, which Biden assured us was somehow reformed and had undertaken not to allow Al Qaida to rebuild its base there, only to find a year later its leader living and plotting in Kabul under the protection of the Taliban leadership.
The reality that the optimistic and the unschooled fail to grasp is that the regime in Tehran will ignore constraints imposed by the deal that it does not like. That is what it did with the original JCPOA and its other international undertakings including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that it has frequently breached, confirmed again earlier this year by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
As Mossad chief David Barnea said a few days ago, the deal is "based on lies".
Tehran will continue to develop the nuclear capability that it sees as its right — deal or no deal — at the speed it wants until it is physically stopped from doing so. Whatever shape Biden's deal takes there are only downsides for the West and the Middle East and only upsides for Tehran. Signing the deal will give Iran renewed legitimacy (while getting Biden and his European friends off the hook of having to confront reality). More than that, according to Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Tehran will receive $100 billion a year as a result of lifted sanctions.
Those dollars will enable Iran to speed up its nuclear programme, including development of ballistic missiles capable of launching nuclear warheads not just across the Middle East but also to Europe and the US. Those dollars will boost Iran's regional aggression, threatening Saudi Arabia and the UAE from Yemen, threatening Israel from Lebanon, Syria and Gaza, and threatening the US, Europe and the world with its global network of terrorist proxies and followers. This violent malignity, which will shift into overdrive with a massive cash injection, was most recently exhibited by Tehran's proxies in Gaza launching thousands of missiles at Israel in August, by rocket attacks in Syria that wounded US servicemen just a few days ago, by the attempt to murder Salman Rushdie in the US and by recently-revealed Iranian assassination plots against former members of the Trump administration. All that while dictating terms at the negotiating table.
Missing no opportunity to exploit Western spinelessness, there is also a significant upside for Tehran's ally Russia, which has been in bed with America, Europe and Iran over the negotiations while at the same time inflicting untold violence in Ukraine. Released from sanctions, Iran will be used as an economic refuge by Moscow to evade its own international sanctions. It will be no comfort to Western citizens to know that their governments are taking action that will ease Russian pain while they themselves endure enormous economic suffering as a result of the very restrictions Putin will bypass.
Under the draft deal, Iran will be able to retain the uranium that it has been illicitly producing since the original JCPOA, enriched beyond any requirements for a peaceful nuclear programme. In a twist that many will find shocking, it seems likely that Russia — despite its own repeated nuclear threats — will be handed control of this existing uranium stockpile. Taken together with the benefits that will accrue to China also, which last year concluded a long-term economic agreement with Iran, this deal clearly runs counter to American and European national security interests as well as Israel's. This is not a strategic misjudgement that might only be discovered downstream; it is blatantly obvious today.
As the deal legitimises the Islamic Republic, it will delegitimise the vital efforts of those who have no choice but to deal with it or risk annihilation. Sometimes with US and British assistance, Israel has been conducting a long-term covert campaign to contain and delay Iran's nuclear project. This campaign, which must continue, will be seen in a different light by Western governments once the deal is in place — a deal that they will be every bit as desperate to be seen publicly to succeed as they have been to bring it about.
Twice before, Israel has saved the world from nuclear catastrophe in the Middle East, by bombing an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 and a Syrian reactor in 2007. Both raids were condemned by world leaders at the time, who only later came to comprehend the enormity of what they had been delivered from. Imagine the reactions of Western governments to such action against Iran when a deal is in place. Destroying the Iranian nuclear infrastructure, while at the same time defending against the inferno Tehran will seek to unleash using its Hizballah proxies in Lebanon, will be a challenge infinitely greater than that faced by Israel in Iraq or Syria.
This chilling scenario — for which the world will pay a very high price — is about to be made more likely by the ill-judged actions of governments in America and Europe, which lack the resolve and courage to apply sufficient economic pressure and military deterrence to put a stop to Iranian nuclear ambitions. Instead, as they did in response to Russian aggression, they are again opting for appeasement, the opium of the faint-hearted.
Colonel Richard Kemp is a former British Army Commander. He was also head of the international terrorism team in the U.K. Cabinet Office and is now a writer and speaker on international and military affairs. He is a Jack Roth Charitable Foundation Fellow at Gatestone Institute.