While the world has been distracted by COVID-19 and the changing Administration in Washington, Iran has quietly moved closer to developing weapons-grade nuclear material.
As Joe Biden steps into the U.S. Presidency this month amid a range of crises, the threat of nuclear proliferation cannot be ignored. Biden must quickly address Iran’s growing nuclear capabilities in addition to the raging pandemic, a troubled U.S. vaccine rollout, a failing economy and the potential for more violence from right-wing extremists.
The insidious danger of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East is an undeniable threat to America’s national security and global stability. Iran will continue its menacing forward march to enrich uranium unless the United States takes a firm stance to curtail the country’s dangerous behavior.
Biden must confront Iran and thwart this growing nuclear threat which has continued to expand since the Trump administration withdrew from the deeply flawed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018. Pressure will be on the Biden Administration to address this challenge and contain Iran, which continues to blatantly ignore the restrictions set in place by the JCPOA to control the mullah’s pursuit of an atomic arsenal.
We have learned through the media that Iran has restarted its enrichment program and is capable of producing even more quantities of highly-enriched uranium. The danger of nuclear proliferation is growing exponentially with each passing day.
Reports indicate that Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium exceeds the JCPOA limit by more than 12 times and that its uranium had been enriched up to 4.5 percent, far above the 3.67 percent threshold established by the Iran nuclear deal. This unfettered proliferation is a clear threat to world peace.
Biden and his foreign policy team must address this growing threat without returning to the JCPOA, which failed to halt Iran’s missile program or its aggressive military moves and rhetoric against its neighbors.
America will need to remain engaged and alert on this issue. Iran continues to be a dangerous force in the Middle East and the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Iran has been labeled as such by the State Department since 1984, and continues to provide moral, economic and military support to Hezbollah, as well as various Palestinian terror groups in Gaza. This is in addition to other terrorist organizations in Iraq, Syria and throughout the Middle East. It was the Iran-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah that launched a rocket attack against American interests in Iraq in December 2019 that left an American citizen dead.
In addition, tensions have risen steadily since the U.S. withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, nearly erupting in conflict in 2020 after President Trump ordered a military strike that killed a top general responsible for attacks that killed dozens of innocents.
These next few weeks following Biden’s swearing-in as President will be hectic, but his national security team must view Iran as an urgent priority as it begins its meetings.
Last September, Biden told the media the United States would rejoin the Iran nuclear deal as a starting point if Iran agreed to strictly comply with the pact’s provisions. But this path is fraught with problems. The JCPOA included unacceptable sunset clauses that stipulated when Iran could resume some of its weapons programs, among other shortcomings.
The Biden administration may also find itself under pressure to continue the strict economic sanctions put into place by the Trump Administration. Iran is hoping to see those rolled back.
Expect Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prioritize discussions about Iran during meetings with Biden. The two know each other well because they have worked together over a span of nearly 40 years.
Biden has in-depth knowledge of the Iran nuclear issue, having served as a longtime member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations as Chairman and Ranking Member. The Iran nuclear deal was clearly a major focus during his two terms as Vice President in the Obama Administration when the agreement was negotiated.
Biden must move to contain Iran and make certain the country’s leaders no longer feel they have free rein to continue down the dangerous path of nuclear proliferation.