After two years of Iran failing to cooperate with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigations of its covert nuclear weapons work, the IAEA Board of Governors passed a censure resolution against it on June 8 cosponsored by the U.S., France, Germany and the UK.
The resolution passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 30-2 with 2 abstentions.
Russia and China voted no.
The censure resolution expressed "profound concern" about Iran’s "insufficient substantive cooperation" and called on Iran to honor its legal obligations to cooperate with IAEA investigations of man-made uranium particles discovered at three undeclared nuclear sites.
For a censure resolution, this one was mild.
It did not condemn Iran or declare it in violation of any nuclear agreements or treaties.
The resolution also did not refer this matter to the U.N. Security Council for a sanction vote.
Nevertheless, Iran angrily rejected the resolution and retaliated by disconnecting IAEA monitoring cameras at a nuclear site. Tehran also announced it will expand the installation of advanced uranium centrifuges in response to the censure resolution.
The question now is whether the Biden administration will abandon its effort to appease Iran at ongoing nuclear talks in Vienna to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the JCPOA.
President Trump withdrew from the JCPOA in 2018, calling it the worst deal ever and imposing over 1,000 sanctions on Iran as part of his "maximum pressure" policy.
Mounting evidence of Iranian cheating on the JCPOA, mostly from documents on Iran’s nuclear program stolen by Israeli intelligence, vindicated Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran has mostly refused to cooperate with IAEA investigations stemming from the nuclear documents and significantly expanded its nuclear program over the past two years and ceased complying with its JCPOA commitments.
President Biden entered office determined to reverse President Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA and bring Iran back into the agreement.
Biden officials also pledged to negotiate a longer and better nuclear deal. Iran spurned these efforts and has refused to meet with the U.S. As a result, "indirect" talks on Iran’s nuclear program have been held in Vienna since March 2021.
Under this arrangement, Iran, the UK France, China, Russia and the European Union have met in one hotel and the American delegation is in a nearby hotel.
Making this worse, the Biden administration outsourced the indirect Vienna negotiations to Russian Ambassador Mikhail Ulyanov.
Amb. Ulyanov has bragged how he managed to negotiate a much better deal for Iran than he expected in cooperation with his Chinese counterpart.
The Vienna talks have been deadlocked because of Iranian obstructionism and unreasonable demands. Iran wants all U.S. sanctions lifted, including non-nuclear sanctions related to human rights violations and Iranian sponsorship of terrorism, before it will agree to resume complying with the JCPOA.
This includes removing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the U.S. list of terrorist organizations. Iranian officials also want huge sanctions relief and a guarantee that a future U.S. president will not withdraw from a new nuclear deal.
To break the deadlock, the U.S. reportedly floated major concessions to Iran in late 2021 that gave in to most of its demands. U.S. sanctions were to be lifted from some of Iran’s worst terrorists, including the IRGC.
Iran would receive at least $90 billion in foreign exchange reserves and $50-55 billion per year from higher oil exports, with no restrictions on how these funds would be spent.
Iran also was to receive $7 billion from South Korean banks as part of a swap to release Iranian prisoners in exchange for U.S. and British citizens held by Iran.
As part of this offer, the U.S. did not include any provisions on Iran’s missile program, human rights violations, or sponsorship of terrorism.
These concessions were so extreme that three senior Biden administration negotiators resigned in January.
This included Richard Nephew, the deputy special envoy for Iran and a top member of the Obama administration team negotiating the JCPOA in 2015.
Iran has made removing the IRGC from the U.S. list of terrorist organizations a requirement for any new nuclear deal.
After months of suggesting that the U.S. might agree to this, President Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennet in late April that he had made a final decision to not remove the IRGC from this list.
Biden’s decision likely was influenced by strong bipartisan opposition to his nuclear diplomacy with Iran, especially a bipartisan Senate resolution sponsored by Sen. Jim Lankford, R-Okla., that passed on May 4 by a vote of 62-33.
The IAEA censure resolution angered Iran but did not close the door to continued negotiations.
Given Tehran’s retaliation to the resolution and its refusal to negotiate in good faith at the Vienna talks, it is time for the Biden administration to announce that it is walking away from the talks and will pursue a "Plan B" approach of tougher sanctions and isolating Iran until Tehran signals it will fully cooperate with IAEA inspectors and is committed to negotiations to end the threat from its nuclear program.
Despite these developments, there are many Biden officials who are obsessed with reversing President Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA and will seize any opportunity to give Iran whatever it wants to revive Obama’s Iran deal.
Congress must keep the heat on the Biden administration to make sure this doesn't happen.
Fred Fleitz is a Newsmax TV Contributor and vice-chair of the America First Policy Institute Center for American Security. He previously served as National Security Council Chief of staff, CIA analyst, and as a member of the House Intelligence Committee staff. Read more reports from Fred Fleitz — Click Here Now.
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