Immediately walk away from the nuclear negotiations with Iran

As new reports of Iranian collusion with the Russian war machine trickle in, the White House continues to undermine both the Ukrainian war effort and Iran’s anti-government protesters through its reluctance to immediately walk away from the nuclear negotiations with Iran.

The absurdity of sticking with the talks over an arrangement that would net the Iranian regime hundreds of billions of dollars should be obvious.

The regime’s aid to Russia is of a piece with its long campaign of mayhem in the Middle East and around the world.

Iran has started shipping unmanned suicide drones to the Russian military by the hundreds, enabling crippling attacks on the Ukrainian energy grid ahead of winter. Now, according to a CNN report yesterday, Iran is expected to send Russian forces precision-guided munitions. Previous reports have indicated that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps now has a footprint in Crimea.

All the while, the ayatollah’s security forces have mowed down anti-regime demonstrators across the country. In one particularly bloody case, snipers let loose on ethnic Baloch worshippers in the city of Zahedan, a massacre that will not soon be forgotten.

Rather than opting for a clean break from the forlorn talks, the administration has come up with a clever way to hedge its bets. Top officials want you to believe that Washington has ruled out a return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, without in fact repudiating the talks.

“It is not on our agenda,” Robert Malley, Biden’s chief Iran negotiator and a proponent of appeasing Tehran, said in an interview with Axios this week. “We are not going to focus on something which is inert when other things are happening . . . and we are not going to waste our time on it . . . if Iran has taken the position it has taken,” he continued. For weeks, top U.S. officials have offered up some version of that formulation when asked whether the protest movement or Tehran’s collaboration with Russia should end the nuclear diplomacy. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said recently that there’s “no imminent agreement because the Iranians continue to inject extraneous issues into the discussions,” adding that the administration continues “to believe that a diplomatic resolution” to Iran’s nuclear program is best.

All of this suggests that such negotiations might be taken up once again, when any “diplomatic resolution” along the lines of the JCPOA should be foreclosed. It’s also a mistake to silo off Iran’s atrocities from any talks.

With the sanctions relief that would come from an agreement, Iran will inevitably spend more on weapons and equipment with which it can assist Putin’s war effort and tighten its control at home. In the same Axios report, an unnamed “senior Biden administration official” claimed that even if Iran were to offer a more conciliatory position on the talks, the administration would be unlikely to strike up a revived JCPOA at this point, given Ukraine and the protest movement. We’ll believe that when we hear it from Malley and Blinken.

The JCPOA made no sense to begin with, and now is even less defensible. It’s time for even its most fervent believers to finally let it go.

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