For Diplomacy to Work, Iran Must Understand that It Cannot Overplay Its Hand

(Washington Post) Dennis Ross - After what seemed like Israeli sabotage at Natanz, Iran's largest uranium enrichment site, the Iranians remained engaged in the talks to restore the nuclear deal, indicating that Iran wants and needs sanctions relief. The Iranians are trying to pressure the Biden administration into providing sanctions relief that goes beyond what would be required of the U.S. to get back into compliance with its obligations under the JCPOA. They are pressing for the lifting of all sanctions imposed since 2015, including those related to human rights and terrorism, not just the nuclear-related sanctions. Ayatollah Khamenei has also declared that the U.S. must first verifiably lift all of the sanctions before Iran will reverse its steps that breach the JCPOA. The U.S. must point out that Iran's enrichment of uranium to 60% contradicts the Iranian claim that their nuclear program is for peaceful, civilian purposes. That level of enrichment makes sense only if they want the option of being a threshold nuclear weapon state. Moreover, the Biden administration needs to show that while it strongly favors diplomacy, if the Iranians make diplomacy impossible, the U.S. will exercise other options to ensure, as President Biden has said, Iran will never have a nuclear weapon. What the Israelis have reportedly done in Natanz buys time so the Biden administration need not feel rushed into reaching an understanding with the Iranians. U.S. diplomacy has little chance of succeeding if the Iranians believe America is so anxious to avoid conflict that increasing the pressure on it on the nuclear issue (and in their regional behavior) will pay off. The writer, a former special assistant to President Obama, is the counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

2021-04-29 00:00:00

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