Dr. Majid Rafizadeh: Iran regime ups pressure on Biden to return to nuclear deal/د. مجيد رافيزادا: إيران تصعد الضغط على بايدين للعودة إلى الإتفاق النووي

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Iran regime ups pressure on Biden to return to nuclear deal
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh/Arab News/January 14/2021
د. مجيد رافيزادا: إيران تصعد الضغط على بايدين للعودة إلى الإتفاق النووي

The Iranian regime has started its campaign to rush the incoming Biden administration into immediately rejoining the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal.

However, the strategy the Iranian leaders are employing is not anchored in diplomacy; instead it is based on issuing threats, fear-mongering tactics, and the ratcheting up of military adventurism in the region.

For instance, the theocratic establishment last week began enriching uranium to 20 percent purity at the underground Fordow nuclear facility, meaning it is now just a short technical step away from weapons-grade level.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is also playing its part. It last week seized a South Korean-flagged ship, which it claimed was carrying thousands of tons of ethanol, in the Gulf.

This alarmed the US State Department, with a spokesperson noting: “The regime continues to threaten navigational rights and freedoms in the Gulf as part of a clear attempt to extort the international community into relieving the pressure of sanctions. We join the Republic of Korea’s call for Iran to immediately release the tanker.”

In addition, the Iranian parliament in November passed a law that requires the government to expel all International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors from the country if US sanctions are not lifted by Feb. 21. These tactics are aimed at giving the regime more leverage ahead of the start of negotiations with the Biden administration, as well as the means to obtain more concessions and greater appeasement from the next US president.

Tehran even wants compensation for the economic losses it has suffered since President Donald Trump pulled the US out of the nuclear deal in 2018. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in 2019: “If you wish more, if you require more, you should give and pay more.” The regime even came up with a figure, with the judiciary demanding the US pays $130 billion in damages. In September last year, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told a forum organized by New York’s Council on Foreign Relations: “Compensate us for our losses.” He added: “A sign of good faith is not to try to renegotiate what has already been negotiated.”

The Iranian leaders used the same threatening tactics ahead of the signing of the nuclear deal in 2015. The Obama administration’s negotiating team gave unprecedented concessions to the regime, including the deal’s sunset clauses, which set an expiration date for the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program, and exempting Iran’s military sites from being inspected by the IAEA.

Military sites are the most likely locations where Iran advances its nuclear program, with satellite images recently indicating that new facilities are being built near the fortified Fordow site. While the regime has made no public statement about the work, it previously acknowledged similar defensive construction at the Natanz nuclear facility.

Meanwhile, the main coalition of Iranian opposition groups, known as the National Council of Resistance of Iran, in October announced the discovery of a secret new military facility east of Tehran. The group claimed the site was controlled by the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, which is primarily responsible for weaponizing Iran’s nuclear program.

Its tactics are aimed at gaining leverage ahead of the start of negotiations with the Biden administration.

The regime’s heightened threats and warnings betray the fact that Tehran is desperate to re-enter the nuclear deal and have all sanctions lifted. It is anticipating that President-elect Joe Biden will adopt a softer policy than his predecessor after he stated in a September op-ed for CNN: “I will offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations. With our allies, we will work to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal’s provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern.” However, the Iranian leaders want more than just the US re-entering the 2015 nuclear deal.

The Iranian regime is using its nuclear program to extort other governments, particularly by escalating its threats and nuclear violations in order to rush Biden into rejoining the nuclear deal and to get more concessions from his administration.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh