In recent months, all evidence has shown that the Iranian regime authorities are tirelessly continuing their nuclear bomb-making projects, and the international community, the P5+1 in particular, is still avoiding taking a firm approach against them.
Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (IAEO) has failed to provide reliable and convincible details about the traces of uranium of human-made origin found in the regime’s Torquzabad, Varamin, and Marivan nuclear facilities, all of which were unknown until 2019. Tehran’s failure to comply has led the Board of Governors to approve a resolution.
Observers believe this resolution may amplify international pressure on the Iranian government and activate Plan B, which will comprise a firm approach toward the mullahs’ nuclear extortion.
The regime’s act of removing surveillance cameras from their nuclear sites has intensified tensions between the UN Nuclear Watchdog and Tehran. At a press conference in Vienna, IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said, “The removal of the cameras poses a ‘serious challenge’ for UN inspectors’ work in Iran.”
He added, “The Iranian step could be a fatal blow to the 2015 nuclear deal is based on the fact that the IAEA will lose track over the amount of Uranium and the number of centrifuges Iran has — two central parts to the deal.”
Reviving the JCPOA, Another Futile Attempt
We should consider a number of questions in order to find a wide-ranging view of the recent developments.
- Have the Vienna talks led the P5+1 and Tehran to full compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) clauses?
- Is there another deal, e.g., JCPOA+, on the horizon?
- Has the JCPOA failed, and the P5+1 attempts to revive it is a nonsensical effort? And would the counterparties return to the pre-2015 Iran deal era?
Since January 2021, both U.S. and Iranian officials have bluntly declared their enthusiasm for returning to the JCPOA. The EU state members, including France, the UK, and Germany, did whatever it took to facilitate new rounds of negotiations. In reality, there is a flagrant distinction between their desires and facts on the ground.
In other words, the pre-JCPOA era has passed, and history is impossible to repeat. From 2011, the former-U.S. administration and EU officials pursued to contain Iran’s nuclear programs, bringing windfall concessions to the mullahs. However, the JCPOA failed to deter Tehran’s clandestine atomic projects. Instead, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) seized this opportunity to expand and accelerate its weaponizing programs.
Why Do the Mullahs Need Nuclear Weapons?
For decades, the theocratic state in Iran has exploited crises as an instrument to extend its life. Not long after taking power in 1979, then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the ‘Islamic Republic regime’, began intervening in regional states’ internal affairs.
He institutionalized his expansionist policies under the excuse of defending Muslims, Shiites in particular. His interference against their eastern neighbor Iraq led to a longstanding war that claimed the lives of around two million victims and left thousands of ruined and abandoned cities, counties, and towns on both sides.
During the war, which lasted for eight years, Khomeini established the IRGC to fulfill two purposes—first, to quell opposing voices inside the country; and second, to extend Iran’s influence across the region and destabilize the Middle East.
Since then, the IRGC has been the main element for the mullahs’ regional ambitions and aggressive policies against the Gulf States. In 1988, the current Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi founded the Quds Force under Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s order. Vahidi is currently an individual wanted by Interpol for his involvement in the Amia bombing in 1994.
In 1997, Qassem Soleimani succeeded Vahidi based on Khamenei’s order. He expanded the force’s activities from Egypt and Palestine to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and from Turkey and Azerbaijan to Yemen.
Under Soleimani’s command, the IRGC-QF and its affiliated groups, such as Lebanese Hezbollah, Yemeni Houthis, Iraqi Shiite militias, and Afghani and Pakistani brigades, slaughtered hundreds of thousands of innocent people and hijacked regional peace and security.
The mullahs, indeed, used terror and instability as a shield to ensure their authority. Remarkably, they started efforts to acquire nuclear weapons following the ceasefire of the Iran-Iraq war. In June 1991, the Iranian opposition coalition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), sounded alarm bells at a news conference in Washington DC.
On June 26, 1991, the Washington Post reported on this warning, stating, “At a private Capitol Hill luncheon Monday given by Rep. Mervyn Dymally (D-Calif.) and other members of Congress for Mohammed Mohaddessin, the foreign policy spokesman for Iran’s leading anti-Islamic movement, the People’s Mujahedin, Mohaddessin said Iran is determined to develop nuclear weapons on a cash basis — and has the money to do it.”
In a nutshell, the mullahs see nuclear weapons as a means for countering foreign threats, enabling them to suppress any opposing voices inside the country quickly. In other words, they pursue to dominate the entire region through atomic bombs and establish Khomeini’s ancient goal of an ‘Islamic Empire’.
Prominent Factors in This Status Quo
Iranian authorities have to deal with prominent factors in such conditions, which have pushed them into an awkward position. These factors include:
- Contrary to the past decades, regional and international crises would not be in favor of the Iranian government. Recently, Iranian authorities have experienced an erosion of their so-called ‘elements of power’ in various aspects. Therefore, they feel a severe need to acquire nuclear weapons.
In this respect, they are buying time by playing with the IAEA, aiming to obtain their first atomic bomb and join the club of nuclear-weapon holder states as soon as possible. The mullahs’ refusal to abandon, or even suspend their subversive activities, such as enriching uranium up to 20 and 60 percent fissile, stockpiling 238.4 kg and 43.1 kg of uranium enriched to 20- and 60-percent, and assembling warheads for ballistic missiles, has strengthened hypothesizes about Tehran’s ominous purpose, in contrast to their nonsensical claims about scientific research.
- The international community’s appeasement policy has put the Iranian government on the threshold of achieving nuclear weapons. Tehran currently possesses several kilograms of 20- and 60-percent enriched uranium, while the JCPOA clearly limited the IAEO to enriching uranium up to 3.67 percent.
This is while nuclear experts believe that the breakout timeline for the Iranian regime is now at zero. “Iran has crossed a new, dangerous threshold; Iran’s breakout timeline is now at zero. It has enough 60 percent enriched uranium or highly enriched uranium (HEU) to be assured it could fashion a nuclear explosive,” wrote David Albright, a physicist and weapons expert, who is the founder of the non-governmental Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS).
He added, “If Iran wanted to further enrich its 60 percent HEU up to weapons-grade HEU, or 90 percent, it could do so within a few weeks with only a few of its advanced centrifuge cascades. In parallel, within a month, it could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a second nuclear explosive from its existing stock of near 20 percent low enriched uranium. Whether or not Iran enriches its HEU up to 90 percent, it can have enough HEU for two nuclear weapons within one month after starting the breakout.”
Notably, IAEO chief Mohammad Eslami did not reject the possibility of Iran enriching uranium at a 90 percent—weapons-grade level—in his interview with Al-Jazeera on June 7. He said, “The decision to enrich at 90 percent depends on the relevant officials.”
- The U.S. would not lose the ace of sanctions against Tehran, because the sanctions have only forced Khamenei and his government to return to negotiations. Furthermore, the U.S. administration avoids contributing unreasonable concessions or sanctions relief to Tehran, particularly on the cusp of mid-term elections in November.
- Recent protests have really shown the regime’s fragile condition, and world powers have grasped this reality. Therefore, the U.S., European officials, and even Tehran’s strategic allies – such as Russia and China – prefer to ink a deal with a weaker counterpart, to ensure further privileges and reduce costs.
- Regional states no longer remain silent versus a profitable contract with Tehran. The JCPOA was closed at the expense of the Gulf States and U.S. allies in the region. Iranian authorities spent billions of dollars of the 2015 deal on destabilizing the region and funding terror entities such as Lebanese Hezbollah, Yemeni Houthis, and Iraqi Shiite militias, as well as the Assad dictatorship in Syria.
A weak contract with Tehran would prompt regional states to acquire nuclear weapons, in order to defend themselves. In other words, the world powers have to severely restrict Tehran’s nuclear ambitions to deter a nuclear race in the region, preserving regional security and stability.
- In such circumstances, returning to the JCPOA is a mirage, and JCPOA+ or other types of deals would push Khamenei’s government to lower leverage, both inside the country and abroad. As a result, the regime will be unlikely to sign another contract, which poses more restrictions and brings fewer privileges.