Last week, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei signaled his support for a potential interim nuclear deal with Washington. Iran’s support for such a deal should be the first red flag raised as to why it could be so dangerous. An interim nuclear deal with Iran would likely play into the hand of US adversaries, harm American and Israeli allies, and could create a future global order where an economically strengthened Iran has more funds to sponsor terror groups that target Israel.
In 2015, the US government, along with allies and other global powers entered a historic nuclear deal with Iran, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreeing to lift heavy sanctions on Iran’s economy and oil exports in exchange for a significant ramping down of Iran’s nuclear program. Iran agreed to reduce its uranium stockpile by 98%, and to maintain uranium enrichment to 3.67%. In exchange, the US and other world powers agreed to gradually welcome Iran back into the global economy, allowing it to once again sell its oil in international markets.
This deal didn’t work the way it was supposed to, mostly because the Iranian government didn’t stick to its promises. After signing the treaty, Iran continued to maintain an advanced uranium-enriching nuclear power plant underground at Natanz, where it enriched uranium with advanced, first-generation machinery. In recent years, Iran has continued to blatantly violate the deal while benefiting from eased sanctions, increasing its nuclear stockpiles of enriched uranium and expanding its nuclear know-how. The IAEA reported that Iran has continued to enrich Uranium to a purity of 4.5%, which is well-above the 3.67% outlined in the agreement. Iran’s total stockpile of low-enriched uranium is up to 3,809.3 kg, now 18 times the limit permitted by the JCPOA deal. Israel knows better than anyone that the Iranian government cannot be trusted to keep its promises and that its nuclear program has a penchant for stowing away nuclear know-how.
At the same time Iran was violating its promises in the JCPOA deal, its economy thrived exponentially; the country was ushered back into international markets and made huge profits on oil exports. Following the first year of the JCPOA deal, Iran’s GDP increased by 12.5%, mostly thanks to the hike in oil exports. Following the Iran deal, Iran’s failing currency also became stabilized for four years.
In recent weeks, Iran’s nuclear program and rumors of a potential interim nuclear deal have been back in the spotlight after Iranian and American officials confirmed reports of indirect negotiations between Tehran and Washington. Although both sides have continuously denied that an interim nuclear deal is in the works, Khamenei has recently signaled his support for such a deal.
For the US and its allies a new nuclear deal could be a grave cause for concern. The Middle East is a drastically changing landscape, with Iranian-sponsored terrorism on the rise. 2023 has seen a steep increase in Iranian-funded terrorist groups conducting attacks on Israeli targets. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), an Iranian proxy-group has claimed responsibility for dozens of deadly attacks in 2023 alone, all of which would not have been possible without the direct funneling of money from the Khamenei regime. In May 2023 alone, PIJ militants fired around 938 missiles across the border into Israel. These missiles are usually smuggled from locations in Iran and Syria.
A strengthened Iran poses an increased threat to Israel’s very existence, as Iran has continuously stated its intention of wiping Israel off the map. Strengthening Israel’s enemies should not be a policy objective of the Biden administration. If the U.S. has its true allies and its own best interests in mind, it is crucial to avoid another failure like the JCPOA agreement.