With President Joe Biden’s decision to keep Iran’s paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the State Department list of terrorist organizations, the administration has signaled its willingness to walk away from negotiations to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal. This is so, notwithstanding the Biden administration’s belief that former President Donald Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from the deal was a mistake.
The Revolutionary Guard controls a huge slice of the Iranian economy and supports militant groups from Afghanistan to Lebanon. Any agreement to legitimize IRGC would enable Iran to rebuild its economy, rejoin the world community and continue its hegemonic push into the Middle East — all while brandishing the threat of a nuclear bomb. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran’s likely “breakout time” — how long it would take to make enough fissile material for one bomb — is around three to six weeks. Weaponization could take two years. And while Tehran has always maintained that it is enriching uranium for peaceful purposes, no one takes that claim seriously.
Iran’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, reacted to the Biden decision by invoking an antisemitic conspiracy theory, declaring that “the national interests of the United States have been taken hostage by the Zionists.” He had other outrageous things to say — none of them indicating an interest in helping to make a deal happen. So what can we expect with the collapse of the Iran talks? What is Plan B, and how can it ensure that Iran does not complete the building a bomb or try to carry out any of its threats to Israel or others?
The hawkish Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) recently released its own Plan B for a “new strategy of comprehensive pressure on Tehran.” Among its recommendations:
• Articulate a Biden Doctrine reaffirming America’s commitment to use all elements of national power to defend vital U.S. interests in the Middle East — first and foremost to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
• To strengthen Israel, provide it with adequate stockpiles of precision guided munitions (PGMs), including Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) and GBU-39/B small diameter bombs (SDB).
• Harness the unique strategic opportunity of the Abraham Accords by integrating Israel more fully in U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) alongside U.S. and Arab partner forces.
The JINSA list goes on. We’re not security experts, so we cannot say if this is the best plan. But we do favor the recognition that the United States, Israel and other countries threatened by Iran need to be planning in earnest for what comes after the negotiations. This is so because, as pointed out by JINSA, “there can be no return to the [Iran deal], as Iran’s nuclear program has advanced so significantly that imposing the same nuclear restrictions as seven years ago would merely curb Iran’s nuclear program only half as much, and only for half as long, as the original accord.”
It will take creativity and commitment to develop a Plan B and to see it through. We await the Biden administration’s next steps.