US should walk away from Iran nuclear talks

US should walk away from Iran nuclear talks

EU and Iranian delegations attend a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria on December 17, 2021. (Reuters /file photo)
EU and Iranian delegations attend a meeting of the JCPOA Joint Commission in Vienna, Austria on December 17, 2021. (Reuters /file photo)
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As the negotiations to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal reach a critical stage, disagreements have emerged among American diplomats — who are playing an indirect role in the talks in Vienna — over how firm Washington should be with Tehran and when to say, “Enough, this ship has sailed.”

Richard Nephew, the US deputy special envoy for Iran and principal architect of the economic sanctions on Tehran, left the team last week after calling for a tougher stance. At least one other member of the US negotiating team also quit. Some even wanted to pull out entirely when new Iranian negotiators appointed by hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi following his election last year reversed most of the concessions made by their predecessors.

It is no surprise to see that the already-lenient US posture is gradually getting softer, since the negotiations are led by Robert Malley, who was the lead Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiator under President Barack Obama when the original deal was signed. He naturally wants to revive what he considers his own deal at any price.

Tehran knows how fragile this US administration is. It can procrastinate until the November midterm elections to gain more leverage and ensure all its demands are met.

On Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian expressed his deep distrust in the White House during a phone call with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. He called on the US and its European allies to take practical and tangible measures in order to reach a sustainable and reliable agreement. From the Iranian point of view, a sustainable deal means one that no future American president can amend or cancel, which is impossible.

Biden’s eagerness to fulfill an election promise has blinded him and made him indifferent to the interests of his country’s historically closest allies

Dalia Al-Aqidi

It is easy to understand why the pro-Iran Houthi militia was last year removed from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations, even though the terrorist group continued to launch drone attacks against military and civilian facilities in Saudi Arabia. It has recently also extended its attacks to the UAE. This is in addition to the US’ tolerance of attacks by pro-Iran militias against its military bases and personnel in Iraq.

President Joe Biden’s intense eagerness to implement even one of his list of promises made to the American people before the 2020 election and to increase his approval rate, which has fallen embarrassingly, has blinded him and made him indifferent to the interests of his country’s historically closest allies.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has repeatedly pointed out that his country will defend itself independently regardless of what happens between Iran and the world powers. “We will protect ourselves by ourselves. Even if there is an agreement, we’re not committed to it. We will preserve our freedom to act,” he told the Jerusalem Post last week.

If Bennett can see that Tehran will use any new funds it receives against the US and its regional allies, why can’t Biden? “A deal that will send tens of billions of dollars to this rotten and weak regime will be a mistake because this money will go to terror against (Israel Defense Forces) soldiers and the Americans in the region. When the money enters Iranian coffers, they attack American soldiers... through their proxies,” Bennett reiterated.

It would be a terrible mistake indeed.

As a result of America’s current policies in the Middle East and North Africa, Iran and its circle of terrorist friends — the so-called axis of resistance — will be upgraded from neighborhood bully to regional superpower, with sophisticated weapons provided by America’s archenemies, China and Russia.

Washington should correct its mistake and immediately halt its involvement in the Vienna talks.

The late, great South African leader Nelson Mandela once said: “History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children.” Biden must not decide the fate of an entire region that is vulnerable to destruction, wars and intimidation by an extensive terrorist network for the sake of elections. Peace agreements with terrorist groups bring only tyranny, injustice and horror.

Mr. President, as you speak of humanity and human rights, do not sentence millions of people to death, as you did the innocent people of Afghanistan. Let the legacy of your time in the White House be that of a fair and firm leader. That is what is called redemption.

Dalia Al-Aqidi is a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy. Twitter: @DaliaAlAqidi

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