On 4 November 2022, United States President Joe Biden privately remarked that the 2015 Iran nuclear accord known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was “dead”, but that the US would not formally say so. US working-level officials insist a return to the deal remains possible, but efforts to revive it are increasingly fraught. For months, Iran’s leaders have appeared uninterested in complying with the deal, instead conditioning their country’s return on unrealistic demands that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) cease investigation into signs of Iran’s past nuclear weapons development. Since mid-September 2022, Western attention has been distracted by other aspects of Tehran’s foreign and domestic policy, including the regime’s brutal crackdown of domestic protests against female veiling rules, its complicity in Russian drone attacks in Ukraine, and its dubious detention of US and European citizens. With political room for a diplomatic solution rapidly evaporating, and Iran’s “breakout period” for producing weapons-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) shortened to a few days, NATO member states must anticipate that states like Israel could opt for a kinetic “Plan B” solution to Iran’s nuclear programme, with potential negative spill-over. With escalation likely before a UN ban on missile trade with Iran expires in October 2023, concerned states should intensify pursuit of peaceful alternatives.
Read the full policy brief on the NATO Defense College website.