Obama is no longer president, but the "team that is around Biden was the same one that was around Obama," said Congressman Michael Waltz (R-Fla.). That's why his approach to Iran seems like a blast from the past -- only weaker. This week, diplomats from six countries are meeting in Vienna to renegotiate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Iran, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the U.K. are all there, but the U.S. is participating indirectly because Trump withdrew from the deal in 2018. American negotiators may not yet have a seat at the tilted table, but they've made clear they want to be and their strategy to get there is the same as under President Obama, said Waltz, "What can we give away? What can we concede?"
How are the negotiations going so far? That depends on who you listen to. Enrique Mora, a European Union diplomat leading the talks, said, "The Iranian delegation... have accepted that the work done over the six first rounds is a good basis to build our work ahead, so no point in going back." Iranian top negotiator Ali Bagheri said quite the opposite, "All discussions that took place in the six rounds ... are subject to negotiations. This was admitted by all parties." Were these diplomates in the same meeting? Or have Western negotiators been thoroughly hoodwinked by their own wishful naivety?
There is cause for skepticism, urged Waltz. Of the three components of a nuclear weapons program, he said, "the actual fissile material, the weaponization of the warhead, and then the ballistic missiles," the previous Iran deal only addressed fissile material, and that badly. Imagine if a "parole officer had to give a month's notice... and then they could only check one bedroom," he said. Those were the inspection terms of the deal Obama's team negotiated. Also left out of the agreement was Iran's sponsorship of foreign terrorist organizations and American hostages in Iranian prisons. It's hard to imagine how the deal could have done less for the U.S.
Yet "the new Iranian regime is even harder line than the last one," explained Waltz. "The new Iranian president criticized his predecessor for entering into the Obama's nuclear deal of saying they didn't even get enough back then, even though we literally gave them pallets of cash." Iran is now demanding a complete cessation of all U.S. sanctions, even ones unrelated to their nuclear program, as part of the new deal -- when the U.S. isn't even at the negotiating table. One nation whose leaders aren't fooled by Iran is Israel. "Iran deserves no rewards, no bargain deals and no sanctions relief in return for their brutality," warned Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. "I call upon our allies around the world: Do not give in to Iran's nuclear blackmail."
President Trump "put on a maximum pressure campaign," said Waltz. "The Iranian regime was reeling because of it. Their economy was in the tank. They couldn't afford to pay their terrorist proxies." He believed Iran was prepared to return to the negotiating table "from a position of weakness" if Trump was reelected. Alas, after President Biden's catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan, America isn't even at the table.
The stakes are high. "If Iran gets the bomb," warned Waltz, "they've already said Israel should be wiped off the face of the Earth." Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other Middle East powers would race to obtain their own nuclear weapons. "That would destabilize the entire world," Waltz predicted. The Biden administration has a chance to keep their finger off the trigger. Instead, they're putting their finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.