Iran is an expansionist state, striving for hegemony over the Middle East. It already has proxies fighting on its behalf in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and it threatens Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

It also wants to destroy Israel. It makes no secret of this and has said so countless times, and it may yet follow through should it acquire the nuclear capability to do so.

Iran and six nations including the U.S. are in the midst of an eighth round of negotiations aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Donald Trump withdrew from the deal in May 2018, which Tehran responded to with escalating violations of the multilateral accord.

U.S. President Joe Biden is seeking a return to compliance with the agreement but has been met by a new, more hardline Iranian president in Ebrahim Raisi, who has demanded the removal of all American sanctions in exchange for the Islamic Republic’s return to the deal.

There was little movement in January. Iran is seeking guarantees that the U.S. will not repeat Trump’s withdrawal from the deal. But Washington cannot offer a legally binding treaty since the Senate would never agree to one, Ned Price, a U.S. State Department spokesperson, warned. “There is no such thing as a guarantee in diplomacy and international affairs. We can speak for this administration, but this administration has been very clear that we are prepared to return to full compliance with the JCPOA and to stay in full compliance with the JCPOA as long as Iran does the same.”

White House National Security Council co-ordinator for the Middle East Brett McGurk added that “We’re in the ballpark of a possible deal. But again, I’m not going to put odds on this.” But, he added, there’s also “a very real chance that these talks could collapse very soon.”

Talks to restore the Iran nuclear deal are entering their final stage, as negotiators head back to their capitals to receive political guidance on what moves to take in the coming days. Western diplomats are facing a self-imposed mid-February deadline to try and revive the 2015 agreement.

Those close to the talks say they think there can be an agreement, but that from a western perspective it will possibly be so limited in scope it is will be seen as temporary. If so, as Enrique Mora, the chief European Union negotiator has said, it will not be for lack of trying.

The Biden White House may now content itself with massive sanctions relief in exchange for a halt to 60 per cent uranium enrichment — bomb-grade is 90 per cent. Biden may well allow Iran to stockpile 20 per cent enriched uranium, which enables the production of Uranium-235 quickly. Twenty per cent was prohibited under the JCPOA.

So Iran would become a nuclear threshold state, which means it could produce a nuclear weapon whenever it chooses to. The so-called “breakout” time for Iran to produce enough fuel for a bomb has plummeted, from more than a year to as little as three weeks. And then what?

Iran is now also one of the world’s top missile producers. Its arsenal is the largest and most diverse in the Middle East. The Islamic Republic has thousands of ballistic missiles, according to U.S. intelligence assessments. They can reach as far as 2,100 kilometres in any direction.

Tehran has shown no willingness to barter over its missiles as it has with its nuclear program. Even without nuclear weapons, Iran is wreaking havoc across the Middle East.

Source » saltwire