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Political Information Last Updated: Oct 23, 2021 - 6:56:04 PM

How Biden's Too-Clever-By-Half Iran Strategy Failed
By Moon of Alabama
Oct 23, 2021 - 6:54:51 PM

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Last week I remarked on the Iran talks:

The diplomatic talks with Iran will fail only if the Biden administration fails to return to the nuclear deal and does not lift the sanctions imposed on Iran by the Trump administration. The sole problem is that Biden wants more concessions from Iran than it had given under the JCPOA agreement.

We now learn that Biden not only wants more concessions from Iran but he also wants to be able to reimpose sanctions even when concessions are given.

Biden wants his cake and eat it too.

Trita Parsi, who has excellent sources on the nuclear deal (JCPOA) issues, writes for Responsible Statecraft:

A crucial turning point in the negotiations occurred earlier in May of this year. The Iranians had insisted on legally binding commitments that the United States would respect its signature and not re-quit the JCPOA, were it to be revived. Though the U.S. team found the Iranian demand understandable, it insisted it could not bind the hands of the next administration, nor guarantee that a future administration hostile to the JCPOA wouldn't again abandon it.

But according to both Western and Iranian diplomats involved in the negotiations, the Iranians then lowered their demand and requested a commitment that Biden would simply commit to staying within the deal for the rest of his own term, granted that Iran also would remain in compliance. According to these sources, the U.S. negotiation team took the matter back to Washington but to the surprise of Tehran and others, the White House was not ready to make such a commitment, citing legal obstacles. Instead, it offered changes to the negotiating text that fell short of a legal commitment.

This is something Iran can not agree to. The U.S. would rejoin the nuclear deal and lift some sanctions. Iran would in parallel dismantle the progress in nuclear developments it had made over the last three years and thereby lose its leverage. Biden would then reimpose the sanctions he had lifted to demand a lengthening of the restrictions on Iran's program and more on other issues like Iran's missile program and its support for Syria, Hizbullah and Yemen. This is of course not acceptable and the reason why Iran is currently slow-walking its return to the talks:

Biden's decision has caused both Iranian and EU officials to suspect that the United States seeks to use the threat or actual reimposition of sanctions as leverage in post-JCPOA negotiations for a longer deal. Meaning, Biden would take a page from the Trump playbook and seek more concessions from Iran by threatening to reimpose sanctions it already has lifted as part of the JCPOA. Iranian and some EU officials suspect that committing to respect the terms of the JCPOA will deprive Biden of leverage in post-JCPOA talks.

The trap is obvious. Seeing it Iran will calculate that a return of the U.S. to the JCPOA deal has no value for it but would potentially increase the danger of U.S. action at the UN Security Council which the U.S. as none JCPOA member can currently not take:

Tehran may consequently see the current status quo - in which most sanctions remain in place while Iran still manages to sell oil to the Chinese - as preferable to allowing the United States to get back into the JCPOA only to see the deal collapse soon thereafter over Washington's insistence on an unacceptable lengthening of the agreement's strictest terms.

The U.S. had already tried to convince China to stop buying oil from Iran. The response was a hearty f... y.. spelled out in diplomatese.

Trita Parsi thinks that Tehran will continue to negotiate with the U.S. but will slow the talks down as much as possible. I agree.

Parsi also thinks that there is danger that Biden will then break off the talks and go with some Plan B which might include a military option. There is however, as I have written before, no plausible Plan B and no chance for the U.S. to win in a conflict:

It is funny then to hear Blinken talk of 'other options' when everyone knows that the U.S. does not have any. Any U.S. attack on Iran's nuclear installations will invite a strong military response. A war with Iran would destroy Israel and whatever is left of the U.S. position in the Middle East. Obama had recognized that. Trump had recognized that. It is high time for Biden to recognize that too and to act accordingly.

Biden could have solved the whole issue in January by lifting the sanctions on Iran and by recommitting to the JCPOA. But instead of solving the problem he waited three month to start talks about a return to the JCPOA with a too clever by half strategy of pressing Iran into more commitments.

'Maximum pressure' had already failed under Trump. Six weeks before Biden's inauguration I already explained why Biden's version of the same plan would likewise fail:

After four years of tight sanctions from the Trump administration, which were greatly supported by the Europeans, Iran has changed its economic structure and orientation. Oil revenues now play a much smaller role in the government budget than they did before the sanctions. The economy has adapted by concentrating on business with non-western countries. Iran is looking east.
Sanctions will not give the 'west' the results it desires. The only alternative to get to those results is a large scale war against Iran with the aim to overthrow its government. But such a war can not be waged because it would destroy the Middle East and would push the global economy into a deep recession. In short - it is no alternative.
A JCPOA ‘Plus + Plus' deal will not happen. There is no realistic way to achieve it.

Despite that being obvious Biden still tried to go that route. That was a stupid idea to begin with and he has failed to achieve anything by it.

Posted by b on October 22, 2021

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