Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, wants sanctions relief. To get the Biden administration off its compliance for compliance approach in which sanctions relief cannot come before the Iranians reverse their breaches of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iranians have adopted a Trump-like “maximum pressure” policy. Their leaders are acting as if coercion can work and carries little risk.
Consider the recent pattern of Iran’s behavior on both their nuclear program and in the Middle East. In early January, the Iranians informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN nuclear watchdog that monitors the Iranian nuclear program, that they would begin enriching uranium to 20 percent, the dividing line between low and highly enriched uranium. Subsequently, they also informed the IAEA that they would begin fabricating uranium metal, a possible step toward creating the core of a bomb. When that failed to move the Biden administration, the Supreme Leader upped the ante and announced that, if necessary, Iran would enrich to 60 percent, close to weapons-grade. In addition, the Iranian government took another step with the IAEA, conveying that it would no longer “voluntarily” adhere to the Additional Protocol which requires inspections of declared and undeclared nuclear sites. And, then it limited continuous access to information even from the declared sites, threatening that after three months to suspend it altogether if sanctions have not been lifted. While the Iranians did agree to discuss with IAEA what the agency says are Iran’s “unsatisfactory” explanations for traces of uranium found at three sites where the Iranians claimed no work on their nuclear program took place, they declined the European invitation to resume diplomacy on their nuclear program in an informal 5+1 format unless the US reverses the Trump sanctions first.
Read the rest of the op-ed at The National Interest.