Some see Iran’s assassination plots as another reason not to revive the nuclear deal: NPR

Feeling vindicated by recent evidence of an Iranian plot to kill former US national security adviser John Bolton, opponents of reviving the nuclear deal with Iran are pushing their cause.


Opponents of the Biden administration’s goal of reviving the nuclear deal with Iran have recently received an unexpected, albeit dangerous, boost to their argument. The FBI said Iran intended to assassinate former US officials. And this week, a group seeking to overthrow the Iranian regime hosted an event attended by one of those officials as they pleaded their case. Reporting by Michele Kelemen of NPR.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: One of the targets of the alleged assassination plot was John Bolton, who was Trump’s national security adviser when the United States left the Obama-era nuclear deal.


JOHN BOLTON: It is an illusion to believe that a regime with which you are about to conclude a major arms control agreement can be considered reliable in complying with its obligations or that it is even serious about the negotiation as he plots the assassination of former senior officials. government officials and current government officials.

KELEMEN: Officials who may have been involved in the US drone attack that killed Qasem Soleimani, a senior Iranian general. Iran has sworn revenge for this assassination. Bolton says Iran was also behind a plot against an Iranian-American woman in New York and likely the recent attack on author Salman Rushdie, although Iran denies this.


BOLTON: They’re not afraid of the United States government. They don’t think they will be held accountable for their actions, and they can get away with it. And if they can get away with the terrorist front on American soil, they can certainly get away with the nuclear front on their own soil.

KELEMEN: Bolton was speaking at the luxurious Willard Hotel in Washington, DC, at an event hosted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran. This is a group that includes the MEK, which was on a US terrorism blacklist and wants to overthrow the Iranian government. The panelists all argued that regime change is the best way to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Iranian observer Karim Sadjadpour says the United States cannot count on that.

KARIM SADJADPOUR: Regime change is an aspiration. It’s not a strategy. It’s not something you can hang your hat on.

KELEMEN: Sadjadpour, part of the Carnegie Endowment, says the Obama administration had hoped the 2015 nuclear deal would transform the region. He says the Biden administration has no such illusions but still considers it a priority.

SADJADPUR: Because if this Iranian regime gets its hands on a nuclear weapon, then all the other behaviors that we talk about, whether it’s destabilizing regional activities or plotting to assassinate their opponents, Iran will feel even more protected if he gets the hold of a nuclear weapon.

KELEMEN: State Department spokesman Ned Price explains that this is why it is important to revive the nuclear agreement known as the JCPOA.

NED PRICE: In the years that we haven’t had a JCPOA, since May 2018, Iran’s nuclear program has advanced in a deeply concerning and alarming way.

KELEMEN: But even if this agreement is revived, Sadjadpour says that the United States needs a broader strategy, something like the American approach towards the Soviet Union.

SADJADPUR: There was a component of that that supported Russian dissidents. We have strengthened our allies against Russian expansionism. And I think we have to see Iran the same way.

KELEMEN: He says it can’t be just one arms control agreement. Former national security adviser John Bolton doesn’t think there should be a deal at all.


BOLTON: We have to stop this artificial division when dealing with the Iranian government between its nuclear activities on the one hand and its terrorist activities on the other. Maybe we are capable of this analytical abstraction, but in Iran they are all instruments of the Ayatollah’s power.

KELEMEN: To revive the deal, the United States should lift the sanctions. Proponents say it’s worth putting Iran’s nuclear program back in a box. Critics like Bolton argue that more money will only lead to more bad behavior.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Department of State.

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