Factions within the human family struggle to resolve their differences peacefully. It is a worthy task, except when it is evident that the effort is useless from the start. Sadly, the effort to revive the Iran nuclear deal is just such an exercise in futility.
Negotiations held in Vienna meant to bring Iran into compliance with a 2015 pact came to a screeching halt on Friday when the Middle Eastern nation demanded that complete economic sanctions relief must precede its agreement to comply with limits on uranium enrichment. “What we’ve seen in the last couple of days is that Iran right now does not seem to be serious about doing what’s necessary to return to compliance, which is why we ended this round of talks in Vienna,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Reuters.
The confab has been flawed from the start, with Iran’s delegation refusing even to look daggers at its U.S. counterparts from across the bargaining table. Banishing the Americans from direct talks is meant as punishment for President Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from the dangerously flawed Obama-era nuclear agreement. Instead, representatives from other signatory nations — Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — have passed updates to Biden officials sequestered off-site.
All the while, Iran ramps up uranium enrichment ever closer to bomb-grade levels. Despite its assurances of interest only in “peaceful purposes,” the regime’s engineers have exceeded the 3.67% enrichment stage sufficient for nuclear energy. Spinning advanced centrifuges, Iran has nearly doubled its supply of 60% enriched uranium, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. From there, a weapons-grade level of 90% enrichment is quickly attainable.
U.S. officials have operated with the expectation that Iran would adopt a production posture requiring 12 months to reach bomb capability, according to the U.S.-based Arms Control Association. Ominously, the Islamic nation has shrunk its breakout time to one month, and the mullahs have demonstrated little willingness to re-cork the bottle that is nearly ready to release the nuclear genie.
Denuclearization is all the more unlikely given the recent election of a new Iranian president who cannot be described as simply a “hard-liner.” As a member of a so-called “Death Committee” in 1988, Ebrahim Raisi participated in sentencing as many as 30,000 dissidents to be hanged. We hope the “Butcher of Tehran,” as he is known by his critics, is never presented with the chance to see how much more deadly efficient the nuke is than the noose.
If the past 40-plus years have taught anything, it is that Iran has no intention of relinquishing its quest to preserve its own existence by acquiring the power to annihilate its neighbors.
The United States is left with only one recourse: defend its vulnerable allies with unblinking vigilance until the long-suffering Iranian people find the courage to replace their bullying masters. Until that day, further talks are likely to be a nuclear waste of time.