President-elect Biden: Last thing Middle East needs is Iran with nuclear weapon

JEDDAH: US President-elect Joe Biden warned Iran it must address the “malign” regional activities it carries out through proxies if it wants the US to rejoin the 2015 nuclear deal.

In an interview published in the US media on Wednesday, Biden also warned that if Tehran acquires a bomb it could spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East “and the last goddamn thing we need in that part of the world is a buildup of nuclear capability.”

He said: “Look, there’s a lot of talk about precision missiles and all range of other things that are destabilizing the region,” and added: “In consultation with our allies and partners, we’re going to engage in negotiations and follow-on agreements to tighten and lengthen Iran’s nuclear constraints, as well as address the missile program.”

Responding to Biden’s comments, political analyst Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News that in pursuit of the 2015 nuclear deal, more formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, former US President Barack Obama turned a blind eye to the Iranian militias operating throughout the region, and to Tehran’s ballistic-missile program.

“Biden can do the opposite by exerting pressure on Iran over its regional proxies and ballistic missiles,” Al-Shehri said. “Biden also reassured Washington’s allies in the region that negotiations with Iran would be different this time and more specific.”

The political temperature in Tehran is rising, however. The Guardian Council, a watchdog body, has approved a law obliging the Iranian government to halt UN inspections of its nuclear sites and step up uranium enrichment beyond the limit set under the 2015 deal, if US sanctions are not eased within a month. In retaliation for the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist last week, which Tehran has blamed on Israel, the Iranian parliament on Tuesday approved the bill with a strong majority, which will harden the country’s nuclear stance.

Reports in the US media said during a new round of negotiations the Biden administration will seek to extend the duration of “restrictions on Iran’s production of fissile material that could be used to make a (nuclear) bomb.”

The 2015 deal caps the fissile purity to which Iran can refine uranium at 3.67 percent, which is less than the 20 percent the nation achieved before the deal, and far below the weapons-grade requirement of 90 percent. However, Iran breached the 3.67 percent limit in July last year and the enrichment level has remained at up to 4.5 percent since then. Iran has also contravened many of the deal’s other restrictions.

Al-Shehri said that it seems as if Iran’s latest actions are designed to attract the attention of the new administration in Washington.

“(President Hassan) Rouhani has rejected the Iranian parliament’s recent bill, because it would obstruct Iran’s diplomatic efforts,” he said. “Iran knows that it cannot take any more risks and is trying to find a solution because it is being economically drained under sanctions.”


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