By Ilan Fuchs, Ph.D.
Faculty Member, Legal Studies
Note: The opinions and comments stated in the following article, and views expressed by any contributor to AMU Edge or APU Edge, do not represent the views of American Military University, American Public University, American Public University System, APEI, Inc., its management or its employees.
Things are moving in a fast pace as far as Iran is concerned. Every day, something new seems to happen.
But is there still hope for a nuclear deal with Iran? Or is it time to go to Plan B, a plan that can be jump-started with President Biden’s visit to the Middle East in mid-July?
New Deaths Cause More Tension in Iran
In Iran, there are more reports of mysterious deaths. Two Iranian scientists, engineer Ayoob Entezari and geologist Kamran Aghamolaei, were poisoned, and their deaths are under investigation.
An Iranian opposition website also reported that two officers in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Ali Kamani and Mohammad Abdus, were killed in traffic collisions in Iran. It is hard to say if these deaths were truly accidents and who was responsible. But these deaths indicate that there is an air of uncertainty in Iran among the people connected to Iran’s nuclear project or the black ops unit of the IRGC.
IAEA Criticizes Iran for Its Lack of Cooperation Regarding Nuclear Facilities
There is also more aggressive discourse between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the United Nations. During its annual meeting in Vienna, Austria, the IAEA’s Board of Governors criticized Iran for its lack of cooperation with investigations. According to the Associated Press, the criticism involved Iran’s “failure to provide ‘credible information’ over nuclear material found at undeclared sites across the country.”
In retaliation, Iran took some aggressive moves. For instance, Iran turned off a camera installed by IAEA in a uranium conversion facility at Natanz. The camera is intended to provide around-the-clock monitoring of nuclear enrichment equipment, and there are similar monitoring cameras around the country that have also been turned off.
Turning off all of these cameras sends a message that Iran is willing to break its ties with IAEA and the United Nations. In addition, Iran can continue to enrich its uranium to weapons-grade quality without the knowledge of the United Nations.
Is there a way to stop Tehran from creating a nuclear bomb? It could be that Iran’s religious leaders are not interested in a nuclear deal and know that the sanctions crippling the Iranian economy will continue. If this is the case, the upcoming visit of President Biden in the region might be geared to facilitate a response to a nuclear Iran.
Biden’s Visit to the Middle East
President Biden plans to visit to the Middle East from July 13 to 16, and Biden’s trip will take him to Israel, the West Bank, and Saudi Arabia to meet with more than a dozen of his counterparts. There is much on the line with President Biden’s visit to this region, especially concerning Saudi Arabia.
According to Politico, a senior Biden administration official made remarks about Biden’s dedication to ensuring: “Human rights is always a part of the conversation … The president is not going to change his views on human rights. He’s made that clear. And he’s also made clear that as President of the United States, it’s his job to ‘bring peace if I can’ … and he focuses our entire national security team on getting things done for the American people.”
Biden had some choice words about Saudi Arabia after the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an American resident killed in Istanbul in 2018. During a debate in 2019, Biden was highly critical of Saudi Arabia and made some scathing comments, calling Saudi Arabia a pariah.
For the Saudi royal family, with one of its members allegedly linked to Khashoggi’s murder, this visit could be interpreted as sweet revenge. President Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia seems to be an attempt to counter the development of an Iranian bomb.
A Nuclear Iran Would Be Worrisome for Other Countries in the Middle East
The rest of the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia have much to be concerned about if Iran successfully builds a nuclear bomb. Iran wants to dominate the region and – the Islamic world in general – due to its past history.
This domination could bring about another rise in oil prices, which would be catastrophic considering that Russian oil is under embargo in light of the war in Ukraine. It is possible that Biden intends to create a defense pact or a similar coalition against Iran.
Economic sanctions have crippled the economy in Iran and left millions of Iranians in poverty. While the demonstrations against the Iranian government are continuing in the streets of major Iranian cities, they will not bring about real change.
The sad truth is that when dealing with religious extremists, the cost-benefit analysis is different. Fundamentalists view the world as dichotomous, with a rigid black-and-white approach. Their religious viewpoint downplays the obvious, catastrophic dangers of nuclear warfare. The situation in Iran requires nations around the world to come together to think outside the box because it is increasingly evident that the clerics in Tehran do not have the best interest of the people of Iran at hand.