With President Joe Biden’s decision to keep Iran’s paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the State Department list of terrorist organizations, the administration has signaled its willingness to walk away from negotiations to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal. This is so, notwithstanding the Biden administration’s belief that former President Donald Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from the deal was a mistake.
The Revolutionary Guard controls a huge slice of the Iranian economy and supports militant groups from Afghanistan to Lebanon. Any agreement to legitimize IRGC would enable Iran to rebuild its economy, rejoin the world community and continue its hegemonic push into the Middle East — all while brandishing the threat of a nuclear bomb. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran’s likely “breakout time” — how long it would take to make enough fissile material for one bomb — is around three to six weeks.
Weaponization could take two years. And while Tehran has always maintained that it is enriching uranium for peaceful purposes, no one takes that claim seriously.
Iran’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, reacted to the Biden decision by invoking an antisemitic conspiracy theory, declaring that “the national interests of the United States have been taken hostage by the Zionists.” He had other outrageous things to say — none of them indicating an interest in helping to make a deal happen. So what can we expect with the collapse of the Iran talks? What is Plan B, and how can it ensure that Iran does not complete the building a bomb or try to carry out any of its threats to Israel or others?
The hawkish Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) recently released its own Plan B for a “new strategy of comprehensive pressure on Tehran.” Among its recommendations:
• Articulate a Biden Doctrine reaffirming America’s commitment to use all elements of national power to defend vital U.S. interests in the Middle East — first and foremost to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
• To strengthen Israel, provide it with adequate stockpiles of precision guided munitions (PGMs), including Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) and GBU-39/B small diameter bombs (SDB).
• Harness the unique strategic opportunity of the Abraham Accords by integrating Israel more fully in U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) alongside U.S. and Arab partner forces.
The JINSA list goes on. We’re not security experts, so we cannot say if this is the best plan. But we do favor the recognition that the United States, Israel and other countries threatened by Iran need to be planning in earnest for what comes after the negotiations.
This is so because, as pointed out by JINSA, “there can be no return to the [Iran deal], as Iran’s nuclear program has advanced so significantly that imposing the same nuclear restrictions as seven years ago would merely curb Iran’s nuclear program only half as much, and only for half as long, as the original accord.”
It will take creativity and commitment to develop a Plan B and to see it through. We await the Biden administration’s next steps.
WJW is absolutely right: “It will take creativity and commitment to develop a Plan B and see it through.” Unfortunately, it is clear to me that expecting the Biden administration to create and commit to a Plan B that will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons is an exercise in futility. The reasons for my pessimism are many.
First of all, the present administration has exhibited unprecedented ineptitude in handling matters of foreign and domestic policy — to name only a few examples: 1. The disastrous way it handled the Afghanistan withdrawal; 2. The failure to deter President Putin from launching his all-out invasion of Ukraine by exhibiting lack of resolve, confusion, and weakness; 3. The crisis of uncontrolled illegal immigration it created on our southern border that has detrimentally affected our national security and the health and welfare of prospective immigrants and American citizens alike , exposing them to significant increases in crime, human trafficking, drug trafficking, and economic hardships.
Second, the fact that the Biden administration has spent more than a year in fruitless indirect negotiations with Iran, while allowing Iran to make major progress toward producing nuclear weapons, demonstrates a lack of seriousness by the administration to stand by its commitment to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
In my opinion, the best that can be hoped for is that the Biden administration will not stymie any attempt by Israel to develop and implement a Plan B. Unlike the U.S. administration, there is no question in my mind that Israel is fully capable of preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, without suffering intolerable losses on the home front, if and only if it receives the full backing of the United States.
Therefore, the critical question is whether the present U.S. administration, handicapped by an apparently cognitively-impaired president and focused on appeasement of our nation’s foes, has the wherewithal to support our most reliable ally in the Middle East stave off an existential threat to itself and the entire Western world.
As an additional matter, I note that there are many experts, especially in the Israeli security establishment, who believe that Iran is fully capable of weaponizing a nuclear bomb in much less time than the two years mentioned in your editorial. Their conclusion is based on the observation that Iran has been working on its weaponization program in tandem with its program to enrich uranium to weapons-grade level. Thus, it is more than likely that Iran will have nuclear weapons at its disposal within a few months, rather than years, after it has accumulated sufficient fissile material for one or more bombs. Thus, the final countdown for taking decisive action is fast approaching zero.