Iran Nukes the Case for a Biden Deal

(Wall Street Journal) Walter Russell Mead - The optimistic case for restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear deal has died. Like so many other innocents, it died at the hands of Ebrahim Raisi, the hanging judge handpicked by Iran's supreme leader to guide the Islamic Republic through the Biden years. For Iran optimists, the goal of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was not only the normalization of U.S.-Iranian relations but the normalization of Iran. A non-nuclear Iran would become a stable, democratic force in the Middle East, optimists believed. But by ruthlessly engineering the election of a hard-liner's hard-liner to the presidency, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has slammed the door on normalization and nailed it shut. On the American side, the deal is looking less attractive within and without the administration. Iran has accelerated its uranium enrichment and other bomb-related activities to the point where the 2015 nuclear deal begins to look meaningless. Sunset provisions built into the original agreement have already begun to kick in, and key restraints on both bomb-making and missile-development programs begin to disappear this presidential term. Likely believing the White House is bent on Middle East withdrawal, Tehran seems to have decided to double down on its confrontational approach to capitalize on perceived U.S. weakness. In the process, Iran is destabilizing the region and increasing the danger of war. Israel and its newfound Arab allies face an existential choice. Will they accept Tehran as a regional hegemon as the U.S. withdraws, or will they resist? If they choose the path of defiance, will America be able to stay out of the ensuing war? A deepening confrontation with a radicalizing Iran is not what the Biden administration expected from its Middle East policy, but that is the reality with which it must cope. Attempting to placate Tehran through patience and restraint will likely only stoke the regime's ambitions. The smell of blood in the water rarely inspires feelings of moderation and restraint among sharks. The writer, a fellow at the Hudson Institute, is Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College.

2021-08-12 00:00:00

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