Biden’s Plan B for Iran

As President Biden has scheduled a visit to Israel in July, where he will meet with an interim government, he will likely face failure to strike a new nuclear deal with Iran. The most recent attempt at a new nuclear deal with Iran that would bring back the 2015 JCPOA, canceled by former President Donald Trump, came to nothing. Even US Representative for Iran Robert Malley is optimistic about any further talks.

Mr. Biden and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi claim to support a return to the JCPOA but the impasse seems insurmountable and there is no longer any political will to make the additional concessions needed to restore the agreement. Under Mr. Biden, the United States has already caved on the issues of Iran’s support for terrorists and the continued development of ballistic missiles. The remaining issue of the Trump-era sanction designating the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization was even on the table unanswered by the Iranians.

Iran viewed the lifting of the terrorist designation as a key step in reversing Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign. Under bipartisan pressure, Mr. Biden has resisted removing the terrorist designation without assurances that the IRGC will take action to reduce tensions in the region. In reality, Mr. Biden has no additional tools to counter the IRGC and was willing to concede this point to secure a deal. It didn’t even work. Clearly, the Biden administration thought it would be easier to get a deal with the Iranians than it turned out to be and most pundits now see that as a dead end.

While Iran hinted that its stance might soften, it found nothing new to resolve the impasse and simply backed away from a suggested plan. At the same time, Iran’s expanding nuclear program continues to erode the nonproliferation benefits of any new deal.

Mr Biden will soon travel to Israel where the new caretaker government under new Prime Minister Yair Lapid will challenge the Biden team to answer the question of how they plan to deal with the issue as Iran continues to enrich uranium and will soon be at the nuclear power plant. power threshold to switch to nuclear power in a few weeks.

The stark reality is that Mr. Biden must focus on a new strategy – a plan B for dealing with the Iranians, which many believe will be a regional security alliance with the United States, including Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. .

It would not be a formal alliance like NATO, obliging members to defend each other in the event of an attack, but it would involve greater coordination between members, including intelligence, early warning and common responses to possible attacks by Iran and its proxies around the world. the region, the most important being Hezbollah’s Iranian proxy in Lebanon.

A joint deployment for such strategic challenges in the Middle East was at the center of a scenario used in an Israeli military exercise in May of the “month of war” – an escalation with Hezbollah on the northern border which moved towards other arenas and implicated Iran indirectly. Israel does not expect the United States to directly engage in such a conflict and launch attacks against it in Beirut or Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, and the United States has no such intention. .

The IDF exercise, however, shows that there is a wide scope for cooperative efforts here — opening emergency depots; information sharing; and the establishment of a regional air defense system that the United States wishes to modernize through a broader regional initiative. To support this concept, the United States recently sent a large military delegation, with an unprecedented number of generals and admirals to Israel, for joint planning efforts.

This potential alliance evolved as the likelihood of a new deal with Iran faded. After the success of Mr. Trump’s Abraham Accords, it became clear that military coordination with the United States needed to be improved and expanded to include allied Arab nations. A new military alliance must focus on countering Iranian ballistic missiles and drones as well as supporting terrorist proxies. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates must all be part of this alliance. From all indications, there is strong support for this among the parties.

Operationally, this would involve the deployment of Israeli radars in these Arab countries; intelligence cooperation; and early warning of Iranian missile and drone launches and their interception. This is in the interest of Israel and the Arab countries which have already been subject to Iranian attacks. US involvement is also important due to the large number of military forces in the region, where US bases are at risk of attack.

The Biden administration hopes to use its visit to the region to publicly announce the launch of the regional defense system. In the most optimistic scenario, Saudi Arabia would also agree to join openly. This was backed up by a secret meeting that took place in the Sinai at Sharm al-Sheikh in March.

Hosted by the United States, participants included IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and senior military officers from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates United. It was part of the US effort to promote a regional air defense system against Iran, convened after US fighter jets shot down two Iranian drones in Iraq that were apparently on their way to attack Israel.

This incident in Iraqi airspace shows that there is already cooperation between the United States and various states in the region, including intelligence sharing, linked radar systems, and the deployment of interception methods. A formal announcement of this alliance would be seen as a US achievement, and Mr. Biden’s team is using the Iranian threat to underscore the need for such an alliance.

Mr. Biden’s main goal is to reconcile with Saudi Arabia, as the United States needs the Saudis to increase oil production to reduce the devastation caused by the global energy crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, any regional progress, and certainly progress that brings Saudi-Israeli relations into the open, would be a significant bonus. For an administration that has so far failed on everything else, this would indeed be a very welcome victory.

• Abraham Wagner held several national security positions, including NSC staff under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He is the author of the recent book “Henry Kissinger: Pragmatic Statesman in Hostile Times”.

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