AdvertisementAs Hopes for Nuclear Deal Fade, Iran Rebuilds and Risks Grow

As Hopes for Nuclear Deal Fade, Iran Rebuilds and Risks Grow

Robert Malley, the State Department’s envoy on Iran, said recently that while “Iran is in the hands of choosing” which path to take, the United States and other allies must be prepared for whatever choice Tehran makes.

He noted that Mr. Biden and Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinkin “both said if diplomacy fails, we have other tools – and we will use other tools to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”

But inside the White House, there has been a scramble in recent days to explore whether some kind of interim deal is possible to freeze Iran’s production of more enriched uranium and convert that fuel into metallic form — a necessary step in the manufacture of a warhead. . In return, the United States may ease a limited number of sanctions. This will not solve the problem. But it may buy time for negotiations, while preventing Israeli threats to bomb Iranian facilities.

Buying time, and possibly a lot of it, may be necessary. Many Biden advisers doubt that imposing new sanctions on Iran’s leadership, its military or oil trade – above the 1,500 imposed by Mr. Trump – would be more successful than previous efforts to pressure Iran to change course.

And more aggressive steps that have worked in years may not yield the kind of results you had in mind. Within the National Security Agency and the US Cyber ​​Command, there is consensus that it is now much more difficult to carry out the kind of cyber-attack that the US and Israel launched more than a decade ago, when a secret operation dubbed the “Olympic Games” took place on disabling centrifuges. At the nuclear enrichment site in Natanz for more than a year.

Current and former US and Israeli officials note that the Iranians have since improved their defenses and created their own cyber forces, which the administration warned last week had been increasingly active inside the United States.

The Iranians also continued to prevent inspectors from entering key sites, despite a series of agreements with Rafael M. Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, a United Nations watchdog, to keep data from the agency’s sensors at key sites. The inspectors’ cameras and sensors that were destroyed in the late spring factory explosion have not been replaced.

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