In response to Iran’s refusal to cooperate with diplomatic efforts to get it back to the 2015 nuclear deal (the JCPOA) and major advances in its nuclear weapons program, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been saying that the U.S. and its allies were "running out of runway" to find a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program and that it is time to consider other options which he referred to as "Plan B."
It's long past time for the Biden administration to admit there never was any "runway" to deal with Iran and that it's time to adopt another approach of new sanctions, covert action and isolating the Iranian regime similar to President Trump "Maximum Pressure" campaign.
Biden officials took office last January with ambitious plans for the U.S. to rejoin the JCPOA, bring Tehran into full compliance, and negotiate a second deal that would address the shortcomings of the 2015 agreement.
They believed Iranian officials would welcome a new U.S. president who supported the JCPOA and was willing to make concessions to lower tensions and reach a diplomatic agreement.
This was wishful thinking.
Iran has refused to meet with Biden officials in person during talks this year in Vienna to revive the JCPOA. As weak as this agreement is, Iranian officials have shown no real interest in rejoining it, probably because they believe the next U.S. president will withdraw from the pact like President Trump did.
Instead, the Iranian government has engaged in a series of dangerous provocations this year that remain unanswered by the U.S. In April 2021, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced Iran had enriched uranium to 60% U-235 for the first time, a level just below weapons-grade.
Iran currently has enough low enriched uranium to fuel three nuclear weapons if further enriched to weapons-grade.
The Institute for Science and International Security said in a September 2021 report that Iran can now produce enough weapons-grade nuclear fuel for a single bomb in "as short as one month."
A second weapon’s worth of fuel, it says, could be produced in less than three months, and a third in less than five.
After the election of hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s new president in June, there were significant violent provocations.
Known as "the butcher of Tehran" for his role in executing political prisoners at the end of the Iraq-Iran War in 1988, Raisi has filled his cabinet with hardliners, 12 of whom are under sanctions by the United States, European Union, United Kingdom, and United Nations for their roles in Iran’s nuclear weapons program, ties to terrorist groups, and human rights abuses.
Iran launched a drone attack on an oil tanker in late July and an attempted hijacking of an oil tanker in early August.
The Vienna talks were suspended after Raisi’s election.
Although the Raisi government has said it is willing to return to these talks next week, it has laid down much tougher conditions for an agreement, including continuing to expand its nuclear program until sanctions are lifted and guarantees that the U.S. will not withdraw from the JCPOA again.
It's hard to see how the U.S. and its European allies could ever meet to these conditions.
This is why Secretary of State Blinken and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid reportedly addressed "other options" against Iran during an October 13 meeting in Washington which they call "Plan B."
Although Biden officials have not revealed what these options are, they probably include increased sanctions, and military and covert actions.
Israel isn’t waiting for the Biden administration to drop its doomed effort to revive the JCPOA and has instead engaged in covert action to slow and sabotage Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
This included unexplained explosions in 2021 that damaged Iranian nuclear sites and a remote-controlled machine gun which was used to kill Iran’s top nuclear scientist in late November 2020.
Press reports about Blinken and Lapid discussing a "Plan B" approach to Iran’s nuclear weapons a program is a very positive development because it indicates Biden officials finally realize the danger of Iran’s rapidly advancing nuclear weapons program and that they are finally ready to throw in the towel on the JCPOA.
It also may mean the Biden administration will stop pressuring Israel to cease its sabotage efforts and may join them.
Most importantly, talk by Biden officials of non-diplomatic "Plan B" options to deal with the Iranian nuclear program suggests they have no choice but to return to President Trump’s "Maximum Pressure" strategy against Iran, an approach Biden should not have rejected in the first place.
Fred Fleitz is President of the Center for Security Policy. 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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