December 30, 2022 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 443

The Iran Nuclear Deal – Has the West Learned Anything?

December 30, 2022 | By Yigal Carmon*
Iran | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 443

President Biden recently said that the Iran nuclear deal is dead. On the other hand, the Iranians – for example Hossein Taeb, an advisor to IRGC commander Hossein Salami – claim that the U.S. is begging to come back to the negotiations, and is acting hypocritically by sending contradicting messages. So who is telling the truth?

According to Arab and Iranian media – and in contrast to all earlier rumors that the nuclear deal had fallen through – the nuclear negotiations are still alive, and have recently even intensified. For instance, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, French President Emmanuel Macron, and European Commission Vice President Josep Borrel met at the December 20 Baghdad II summit in Jordan, and all sides reported that progress is being made in the negotiations. The Iranian media reports also indicate that the U.S. wants to limit Iran's regional expansion and to reach a deal regarding its ballistic missiles, which pose a threat to the security of both Israel and some of its Arab neighbors. These two issues – regional expansion and missiles – were absent from the original JCPOA, and it is reasonable that the U.S. would indeed include them in the negotiations. Indeed, this may indicate that the U.S. is not giving up the demands, to which Iran will never agree.

Another indication that the negotiations have intensified is the recent letter reportedly sent by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Oman’s leader Haitham bin Tariq about the deal.[1] Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian has also spoken optimistically about this letter. It should be noted that President Obama had also used Oman as a go-between when he agreed, breaking all precedents, to Iran's enriching uranium.

If indeed the U.S. is still involved in the negotiations, despite President Biden's informal statement that the deal was dead, then the Biden administration is doing precisely what President Obama did with Oman in 2015, when he secretly approved – in writing – of Iran's uranium enrichment efforts, breaking a years-long taboo on uranium enrichment by non-superpower countries.

In considering the possible renewal of the nuclear deal, the U.S. and the Europeans need to take several issues into account.

Iran is desperate to advance the deal, particularly in light of its ongoing economic crisis and after 100 days of antiregime protests. It therefore may use deception so that the U.S. and the Europeans will keep making concessions in the the negotiations.

Will the West recall that all of Obama’s promises that Iran’s nuclear activities would be monitored everywhere and at all times were not kept, and will not be kept in the future either?

Will they realize that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei's alleged fatwa banning nuclear weapons – that no one has ever seen or even asked to see – is a sheer lie?[2] Have they not heard Iran’s representatives openly discussing Iran’s technical ability to produce a nuclear bomb and justifying producing it?

Will they realize that Iran is lying to their face, such as with its brazen claim that it did not sell drones to Russia?

Will they remember that the U.S. itself has no clue as to the location of 8.5 tons of enriched uranium meant to be transferred out of Iran in 2015 in the framework of the original JCPOA? According to Ambassador Stephen Mull, the Obama administration's State Department lead coordinator on Iran, in testimony at a February 11, 2016 hearing before the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, Washington has lost track of this enriched uranium.[3]

Will they take into consideration the fact that the Iranians have already enriched uranium to 60% – a level appropriate for use in nuclear submarines? Are they really under the impression that Iran’s nuclear program is for civilian purposes, as the Iranians claim, and that the 60%-enriched uranium will be used for shipping tomatoes, potatoes, and Iranian pistachios in nuclear-powered submarines?

Will they re-read the original JCPOA and notice that Section T explicitly permits the Iranians, under certain conditions, to detonate experimental nuclear devices, in stark contradiction of the supposed purpose of the agreement to prevent Iran from acquiring nukes?

If a new deal is reached, will they agree to Iran transferring all of its enriched uranium to Russia, against which the West has been fighting for nearly a year?

The entire issue of the nuclear deal is one big absurdity. Yet on the other hand, Europe is in desperate need of cheaper oil, and the European countries have seen widespread antigovernment demonstrations and could use some quiet. Biden's Democratic administration, for its part, also needs Europe to continue backing the war in Ukraine, and it needs political momentum – which a new nuclear deal, even one based on lies, could give it – ahead of the 2024 presidential elections.

If a new nuclear agreement is reached, there is little doubt that Israel, whose very existence would be threatened by Iranian nukes, would take military action and bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. Israel’s new-old prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was just sworn in again, said in his Knesset speech prior to the approval of his cabinet yesterday that thwarting Iran's aim to develop nuclear weapons is his number one priority. The structure of his government indicates that he will face no internal dissent in this matter. Moreover, even outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz – known to be very moderate – told a graduating class of fighter pilots two days ago that one of their missions might be to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities.[4]

*Yigal Carmon is President of MEMRI.


[1] ISNA (Iran), December 12, 2022.

[2] MEMRI Daily Brief 433, Khamenei's 'Nuclear Fatwa,' Once Again,November 29, 2022.

[4], December 28, 2022.

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