And now ? The latest outbreak of nuclear fever between Iran and the international community is increasing the pressure on Joe Biden to rush the outcome of negotiations with Tehran. The President of the United States is faced with a difficult choice: to let go, at the risk of being accused of weakness with regard to one of America’s worst enemies by the Republican opposition a few months before the legislative elections of november ; or decree the failure of diplomacy, at the risk of letting a major crisis erupt in the Middle East in the midst of the Russian-Ukrainian war.
The moment of truth for Iran’s nuclear
“At this stage, things can go in both directions”, explains to AFP Ali Vaez, of the organization of conflict prevention International Crisis Group. According to him, “the tensions of the last few days may push the leaders in Tehran and Washington to take the compromise that is on the table”or on the contrary cause “another cycle of escalation that will only get worse”.
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At the start of 2021, the Democratic president had bet on rapid negotiations to resuscitate the 2015 Iranian nuclear agreement, which his Republican predecessor Donald Trump had slammed the door on. But today, these talks in Vienna are deadlocked.
Iran is getting closer to a nuclear bomb
The situation has just gotten worse: based on the findings of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which accuses Iran of getting drastically close to the quantity of enriched uranium needed to make an atomic bomb but also not to respond to its concerns about certain suspicious activities, the United States and the Europeans had a formal call to order voted by the UN agency. Tehran responded quickly, withdrawing 27 surveillance cameras from its nuclear program.
In Iran, a presidential election without major effect on the nuclear file
In Washington, supporters of the 2015 agreement believe that these events prove that this text, known by the English acronym JCPOA, is the only way to prevent Iran from acquiring a bomb and that saving it is worth quite a few concessions from Joe Biden. Its detractors, mainly Republicans, see it on the contrary as demonstrating that it is insufficient since Iran does not cooperate with international inspectors.
If all the nuclear advances made in recent months by Tehran “are not enough for the Biden government to change its position, so what else is needed? »asks Behnam Ben Taleblu of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank that campaigns against the 2015 agreement. He encourages the president to reconnect with the “maximum pressure” of the Trump era, but with a “multilateral version”.
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Biden is comfortable with the status quo
Even on the Democratic side, critical voices rise in tone, like the influential senator Bob Menendez who wonders “when the government will finally recognize that Iran’s nuclear progress” are now too large to be worth reviving the JCPOA. In fact, the Biden camp seemed to tacitly accommodate itself, in recent months, to the status quo, which Ali Vaez summarizes as follows: “No deal, no crisis. »
Iranian nuclear: why Merkel and Le Drian are sounding the alarm
While the Americans warned in December that only ” a few weeks “ to find an agreement, this period has passed without any result, and they now refuse to mention another deadline. Thursday, June 9, Washington also continued to maintain the vagueness about its intentions.
The head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken has warned that the latest ” Provocation “ of Tehran risked leading to “an aggravated nuclear crisis” and to one “Iran’s increased economic and political isolation”. But at the same time, he left the door open to diplomacy, saying he still wanted to save the nuclear deal. At this point, his raise would still respond “strongly in the interests of national security” of the United States, it was explained in his entourage.
An unsustainable situation in the long term
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Randa Slim, a researcher at the Middle East Institute think tank, fears the persistence of “this gray area where everyone assumes that the talks in Vienna have failed, but no one wants to announce it”. “That’s the Biden administration’s dilemma: if it declares the negotiations over”even though, in the opinion of experts, Tehran is closer than ever to the status of a nuclear state, “They will be forced to take action”, she believes. Or “to accept an intervention from Israel”where hawks are pushing for military strikes against Iranian nuclear sites.
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For Ali Vaez, however, the tensions with the IAEA “showed both sides” than the status quo “really not tenable”. Especially since “two countdowns” put simultaneously ” a lot of pressure “ on Joe Biden, he argues. Firstly, “Technical Countdown” which brings the Islamic Republic closer to a nuclear weapon and which will push the American Congress to demand more determined action on the part of the President. On the other hand, “political countdown”with the approach of the mid-term legislative elections in the United States.