Rushing to a Weaker Iran Deal
The U.S. makes another pre-emptive concession, as Tehran demands more.By The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Feb. 6, 2022 3:43 pm ET
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Feb. 1.The diplomatic signs point to the Biden Administration striking a revised nuclear deal with Iran, and the latest bad news is sanctions relief even before an accord is struck.
On Friday Secretary of State Antony Blinken restored sanctions waivers on Iranian civilian nuclear activity that the Trump Administration had rescinded in 2020. Foreign companies working on such projects will now be exempt from economic penalties. Iran’s foreign minister responded that the latest move was “good but not enough.” Pre-emptive concessions invite more demands.
“We did NOT provide sanctions relief for Iran and WILL NOT until/unless Tehran returns to its commitments under the JCPOA,” State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted. This is semantic spin. Friday’s move was only the most recent concession.
Washington lifted sanctions on several Iranian officials and firms in June and ended the fight to restore “snap back” sanctions at the United Nations a year ago. Iran’s oil exports began recovering last year after falling from 2.5 million barrels a day in 2017 to less than half a million daily in 2020, as U.S. enforcement eased.
Western negotiators have been saying since December that there are only weeks left to restore the deal, yet the talks roll on. Members of the American team reportedly quit over chief negotiator’s Robert Malley’s soft stance. The 2015 deal was weak enough, with nuclear restraints phased out by 2031. It didn’t address Iran’s missile program nor its malign regional activity. The nuclear knowledge Iran has gained from violating the deal can’t be unlearned. “The Biden administration expects a restored nuclear deal would leave Iran capable of amassing enough nuclear fuel for a bomb in significantly less than a year, a shorter time frame than the one that underpinned the 2015 agreement,” the Journal reported last week.
It’s egregious that all this is happening as Iran continues to spread terror in the region (see the Houthis) and stonewall international nuclear inspectors. Washington has held off on censuring Tehran at the International Atomic Energy Agency, fearful that a rebuke at the organization’s Board of Governors will cause the Iranians to walk. But if Iran won’t allow outsiders to fully verify its nuclear activity, what good is a deal that claims to limit nuclear activity?
“I have been cautiously optimistic about the Biden administration’s initial efforts. I waited for the last year to see results,” Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, a Democrat, said last week. “However, a year later, I have yet to hear any parameters of ‘longer’ or ‘stronger’ terms or whether that is even a feasible prospect.” That’s a reference to the Biden Administration’s apparently abandoned promise to negotiate a better follow-up deal. The Democrat added that “we seriously have to ask what exactly are we trying to salvage?”
Mr. Malley said last month that the U.S. was unlikely to strike a deal if four U.S. citizens currently held hostage by Tehran aren’t released. He claims those negotiations are separate from nuclear talks, but that’s hard to believe. Recall that the Obama Administration airlifted $400 million in cash to Iran as the regime released four detained Americans. The Islamic Republic clearly learned from the last time it negotiated with a Democratic Administration. Apparently President Biden’s negotiators haven’t.