The Biden Administration Must Choose with Iran

JCPOA Deal

 

Currently, negotiations are underway to attempt to find a replacement deal for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). More specifically, the new Biden administration is trying to find a way to make the Islamic Republic of Iran return to the terms of the now-defunct JCPOA. At the moment, the negotiations are centered around what the United States and the West will pay or give to Iran in order for Iran to consent to return to the severely flawed JCPOA deal.

Iran is the world’s most prolific sponsor of state-backed terrorism. Unfortunately, a return to the JCPOA would only provide Iran with a clear path toward obtaining nuclear weapons in the future while simultaneously being given significant sums of money and economic relief by the West. The Center on Military and Political Power reports that this outcome provides the Iranian regime with everything it desires. The Iranian government is currently facing an economic crisis with dwindling reserves. Additionally, Iran’s primarily uranian enrichment facility experienced an explosion recently, further setting back Iran’s ability to achieve its nuclear ambitions. According to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, reentering the JCPOA alone would provide Iran with both a pathway to economic recovery and nuclear weapons in the future. It is not clear why it would be advantageous for the West or the Iranian people for the regime to be economically strengthened and given nuclear weapons capabilities.

Reentering the JCPOA does not provide the United States or the West with any tangible benefit nor leverage over Iran. Each of the items that the Iranian government is struggling with stands as potential leverage for the United States and the West. However, the Biden administration is not utilizing any of these options as leverage in the current negotiations.

Iran is successfully wielding the threat of nuclear escalation to exploit the West into yielding significant economic concessions via sanction relief, payment, and reentering the defunct JCPOA deal. Re-entering the JCPOA  will enable the regime to legally begin using advanced nuclear centrifuges and grow their enrichment capabilities. The likelihood of this outcome has been observed by many organizations. When the restrictions from the JCPOA sunset over the next several years, Iran will have everything in place needed to begin nuclear weapons production while receiving massive economic aid to bolster the government in the meantime. Even during the 2015 JCPOA agreement, Iran violated the terms by advancing its nuclear production capabilities; therefore, any sunsetting nuclear limitations that are reentered with the Biden administration are not likely to be followed. Moreover, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently found the Iranian regime has been hiding non-disclosed nuclear materials.

The old JCPOA deal needs to be fixed before Biden considers reentering the deal with Iran. The sunsetting provisions need to be addressed. Iran’s past and current violations of the deal need to be reconciled. A new deal should address Iran’s production of nuclear materials, nuclear weaponization, and their means for delivering nuclear weapons. All three of these items must be addressed for a deal to have any hope of curbing Iran’s nuclear goals. The United States should permanently end Iran’s path toward acquiring nuclear weapons and not enable Iran to obtain nuclear armament.

Washington’s Negotiation with Iran: Rejoin the JCPOA?

President Joe Biden and Tehran have already begun negotiations to determine the path forward regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The negotiations center around the expiring Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal reached under the Obama administration. Previously, Biden expressed his desire to return to the 2015 JCPOA. Some of the JCPOA’s original authors from the Obama-era are back to work again inside Biden’s executive administration. However, if the Biden administration is serious about reigning in Iran’s desire to develop nuclear weapons, the United States needs to reject re-entering into the JCPOA. Returning to the terms outlined in the JCPOA will ultimately lead to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

If the United States decides to revive the dying JCPOA, the Obama-era agreement will do little to deter Iran. The JCPOA is set to expire soon, and organizations such as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies point to limitations inherent to the JCPOA. The JCPOA’s restrictions on Iran’s nuclear weapons program are set to expire, even if the deal is re-entered. The hoped-for modernization of Iran that was supposed to occur as a consequence of the JCPOA agreement did not bear fruit, nor would it be likely to in the future. Additionally, United Nations-sponsored asset-freezes intended for supporters of Iran’s nuclear program are set to expire soon as well. Any plan to re-enter the agreement would not achieve anything beneficial to the United States or its allies.

It has already been revealed that Iran probably intends to maintain a secret nuclear weapons program, regardless of any agreement or treaty. Despite the JCPOA’s intentions, Tehran violated the agreement’s restrictions many times. Reports from Leading foreign policy think tanks such as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies indicate these violations included prohibited ballistic missile tests, importing illicit missile equipment, exporting weapons to militias in Iraq and Yemen, and other violations. Based on Iran’s behavior, it seems clear that Tehran did not intend to fully honor the JCPOA regardless of the international community’s disposition towards the agreement.

In response to the sunsetting nature of the JCPOA, Iran’s violations of the agreement, and other shortcomings, the Trump administration had re-postured the United States to a more restrictive and tougher stance toward Iran. This tougher stance included sanctions toward those who would help enable Iran’s procurement of nuclear weapons and related military equipment.

As the JCPOA currently stands, it is a good deal for Iran. It allows for nuclear weapons procurement in the near future and the easing of sanctions and restrictions. The deal provided Iran with financial relief for its struggling economy. The Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign has been mitigating the Iranian regime’s ability to function as an effective government and may be able to produce significantly tangible benefits if it is maintained by the new president. According to policy institutes promoting the defense of democracy around the world, the best deal for the United States and its allies is to keep the pressure on Iran. Pushing forward existing stations will create further leverage over Tehran needed to negotiate the end of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and human rights abuses.

Keeping the pressure on Iran will require diplomatic effort. Rebuilding effective relationships in Europe and elsewhere in the world will enable a more effective and toughened stance on Iran. Biden’s administration has an opportunity to demonstrate to the rest of the world that the United States will maintain its disposition of serious intent toward stopping Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons capabilities. This effort would be a difficult but necessary undertaking. As the provisions under the JCPOA approach their sunset, the Biden administration needs to take action to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

Emerging Challenge to U.S. Cyber Security from Iran and Russia

foundation for defense of democracies

Russia and Iran have formally partnered to expand their joint communications technology and cyber warfare capabilities. These increased cyber capabilities constitute an emerging significant threat to the United States and the international community. In addition to signifying an emerging threat internationally, the increased cyber capabilities of these authoritarian regimes constitute a threat to the citizens of their own countries. This joint agreement will aid their governments in both suppressing dissent within their own borders as well as in expanding their capabilities to interfere with Western systems of free and open use of the internet.

The agreement will help Russia and Iran facilitate cybersecurity, cyberwarfare, exchange of technologies, training, and coordination of efforts toward interfering with the international community. Additionally, implied in this agreement is the sharing of information regarding U.S. cyber operations and capabilities. This sharing of information creates an additional security threat to the U.S. and its allies. Within Russia and Iran, think tanks including the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies report this agreement will help facilitate the authoritarian governments’ building of surveillance states within their own countries. Shared advancements in technology, cyberinfrastructure, and technology training will enable the surveillance of civilians and political dissent to become more feasible and pernicious. Russia and Iran have also agreed to assist each other in developing software and technology resources based in their own countries, as opposed to in the West which is currently the norm. This includes developing alternatives to common western computer operating systems such as Windows, internet hosting, as well as other software platforms and internet technologies.

Through shared technology, training, and resources, Russia and Iran will be able to further authoritarian aims at home and abroad. According to The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a leading think tank in DC, this agreement includes the presentation of mutually favorable media coverage, producing favorable media content, imposing counter-narratives to Western media, and cooperation in targeting media toward western audiences. Overall, the agreement will perpetuate greater authoritarian state influence and control of the open internet.

At present, United States’ cyber capabilities are not optimally effective. Members of the United States Congress and the Government Accountability Office have been critical of U.S. cyber capabilities, highlighting their problems and inadequacies. There are known issues with interagency coordination and cooperation, underfunding, and other problems. 

In order to counter the growing authoritarian cyber threat, the Biden administration will need to allocate resources and provide the leadership necessary for the United States to maintain a strong and unified cyber defense capability. Organizations promoting the defense of democracies argue that if regimes like that of Russia and Iran get their way, international use of free and open internet may become compromised. 

Russia and Iran are aiming to further their ability to control what is presented on the internet for international and domestic media consumption and to spread propagandistic narratives to further their own interests and control their own populations. While conventional military threats often garner the most popular attention, cyber threats also pose a significant threat to the Western way of life. Cyber threats require attention, funding, and support in order to be properly addressed.

 

 

 

Title: Israel’s Missile Defense Tests Affirm Advanced Systems and Send Clear Messages

Rafael Advanced Systems recently led testing for Israel’s missile defense systems to coordinate with Israel’s Navy and Air Force with resounding success. The productive tests augment Israel’s overall strategic and operational abilities by delivering interoperability. The complex functions required and successfully carried out by both people and systems result in their preparedness to mitigate current and future threats.

 

Israel leveraged RAS to test the following systems:

 

  • Arrow: Intercepts long-range missiles
  • David’s Sling: Targets medium-range missiles
  • Iron Dome: Defends against rocket fire

 

The Brigadier General who oversees Israel’s Air Force defense program, Ran Kochav, highlighted the live drill simulation’s complexity. His comments on the intricacy of the human and technological decision-making required to complete the task point to integrating artificial intelligence in their advanced defense systems. Cruise missiles, in particular, present a challenge to intercept as they are maneuverable at high, fast speeds, but the tests accomplished this task simultaneously along with others. In addition to cruise missiles, the defense system protects against various weapons, including unmanned aerial vehicles and ballistic threats. Analysis by think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracy suggests the tests send a clear message to Israel’s foes that they are equipped and prepared to combat a range of attacks and to retaliate against attacks.

 

Israel—With the U.S. as Ally—Faces a Variety of Threats

 

Israel faces threats from various sources, including Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, Iranian-proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Iran itself. For its part, Iran is currently limited to short and medium-range missiles. However, a leading author on Iran and other experts express concern that they may develop long-range ones. Hezbollah will likely attempt to import guided missiles if they are not available to develop their own. The combination of guided missiles and Israel’s enemies in proximity to them creates the possibility of precision-attacks on multiple targets in Israel.

 

In addition to the threat facing Israel, Iran also presents a clear and present threat to the U.S. in the Middle East. General Frank McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command, cited an Iranian ballistic missile inventory of 2,500-3,000. While Iran does not yet possess intercontinental ballistic missiles, their current supply of short and mid-range missiles, PGMs, and combat drones can strike with precision in their surrounding area, including targets in Iran and U.S. personnel and military assets in Iraq and other areas. The “Fotros” long-range attack drone, for example, can fly for 30 hours and has a range of 1,250 miles.

 

leading bi-partisan research institution notes Iran and its proxies have escalated rocket attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq since Mary of 2019. One attack, occurring on January 8, 2020, led to the downing of a Ukraine civilian airliner. The attack came on the heels of the U.S. execution via drone strike of IRGC’s top general, Qassem Soleimani. More recently, they targeted the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

 

Successful Missile Defense Tests Send a Strong Message

Not only are Israel’s successful tests indicative of an advanced, multilayered defense system with interoperability, but they also send a clear message to Israel’s foes. The Israel Defense Forces regard Iran’s nuclear program as its number one threat and Hezbollah’s precision-guided munitions as number two. Thus, the live test results communicate a clear message to both groups that Israel is prepared to defend against such attacks and willing to both intercept and retaliate. To that end, Benjamin Netanyahu signed off on the recent National Security Strategy, which communicates that Israel can be prepared to target terrorists, even if those targets reside in key places in Tehran and Lebanon.

A national security research fellow, along with other foreign policy experts, maintains that recent strides in peace-making efforts in the Middle East support stability in the region. While it remains unclear whether Israel will share advanced weapon defense with its new partners, such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, what is certain is the vested interest those countries share. A Biden administration would be well-served to support those countries’ ongoing partnerships in the region rather than revisiting deals with Iran.

Iran’s Growing Air Defense Capability

Iran recently conducted a significant military air defense drill showcasing its newly updated air defense systems. This has been a significant military arms-related event among several in recent years, along with Iran’s attempt to ship ballistic missiles to Venezuela. This drill included the use of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), radars, launchers, and command-and-control technology, according to a leading nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security. In the past, international focus has been on Iran’s capability to make offensive war, this drill shifts the spotlight onto its equally impactful defensive capabilities. Iran has positioned its air defense systems over many locations within the country, and top leaders of an organization following foreign policy argue that confidence in home-based air defense creates an understanding that any retaliation from opponents is less likely. This, in turn, provides Iran more freedom to realize any ambitions for offensive action in the region.

The drill, named “Defenders of the Velayat’s Skies-99” is one of a series of joint drills conducted by the Iranian military’s air defense branches. The use of Iran’s air defense capabilities in military drills has become an increasing priority over the past several years. The effectiveness of their new air defense systems was highlighted when Iran destroyed an American drone in 2019 and accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner more recently in 2020.

It makes sense that Iran has decided to display large-scale military drills while it is hampered by sanctions and the potential for domestic unrest due to the coronavirus. Public military drills serve as a primary means of deterrence to any aggressor that would be assuming a degree of weakened capability from the Iranian regime, according to a Washington-based think tank. Iran’s military displays also serve as a message to the United States to back down from its intent to stymy Iran’s oppressive regime.

While Defenders of the Velayat’s Skies-99 should be taken seriously, Iran’s air defense capabilities are still limited. The United States and its allies have the capability to defeat Iran’s current air defense technology. Nonetheless, Iran’s defenses are becoming more effective, and presently constitute an additional layer of difficulty for any potential attacker, as well as some degree of deterrence.

Iran’s air defense drill is also indicative of potential future problems for the region. Russia has signaled its willingness to sell its more effective S-400 SAM air defense system. If Iran were to purchase this system, its ability to shoot down aircraft will be augmented. This would provide the capability to target aircraft in regions further outside of Iran and along international trading routes. Given the apparent failure of the international community to limit Iran’s arms imports and other limitations, this creates additional concern. Enforcement of Iran’s weapon embargo has been largely unsuccessful internationally. 

Given Iran’s recent air defense drill and the possibility of Iran gaining access to the S-400 SAM air defense system, it is important that this situation is taken with seriousness. Top experts on Iran warn that such a move could provide Iran greater freedom to militarily expand in the region, and impose on international trade. The United States and the international community need to make a concerted and effective effort to halt Iran’s regional and military ambitions. Efforts so far to curb Iran’s military technology growth have been insufficient.

Iran and Turkey in Lock Step

Despite Turkey recognizing Israel as a nation in 1949 and Iran’s recognition in 1950, they are outspoken critics of the 2020 UAE-Israel peace deal according to recent reporting on Iran from experts on Middle Eastern and Iranian government. In the epitome of an August surprise, the agreement brokered by the U.S. left President Trump detractors shocked. The shock comes not only from the lack of leaks surrounding the deal, but also its proof that stability in the Middle East is not exclusively contingent upon a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine.

Both Iran and Turkey reacted contentiously to the historic deal for which President Trump was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. The deal potentially thwarts the plan of both Arab states to further destabilize the area according to foreign policy research organizations reporting on the oppressive situation in Iran. Turkey’s encroachment into Libya, Syria, Somalia, and Qatar to Iran’s proxy war waged in Afghanistan; both countries remain active. Both use Palestine as the basis for why they oppose the deal, and they are not alone in their opposition. However, they and the greater region benefit from the agreement.

Significant Moves Yield Major Benefits 

For instance, the deal requires Israel to halt its annexation plan for portions of the West Bank for which Palestine claims ownership. This is a concession for Israel and Netanyahu, in particular, who leverage the annexation plan as the impetus for his re-election campaign. Additionally, the UAE seeks to acquire advanced U.S. weapons systems and military jets as a component of the deal. Israel is hesitant to support the latter for fear that those items could fall into the wrong hands. Currently, they are the only ones in the area with stealth warplanes and other U.S. military weapons.

Research conducted by the foreign policy group, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and substantiated by numerous news stories report that the acquisition of military weapons by the UAE is still a subject for debate. What is established is the normalization that is already taking place and is expected to develop. Unlike Egypt and Jordan, Israel and the UAE were never at war so the emphasis is on shared benefits as opposed to maintaining peace. Some of those benefits include doing business deals, exchanging intelligence, sharing technology, and generating wealth through new investment. The latest news from FDD, a research group focusing on Iranian government policy, agrees with those benefits along with the fact that a collaborative effort against their shared enemy of Iran is mutually beneficial, as well, and the deal paves the way for other countries in the region to enter into their own agreements with Israel.

A Secretive, But Productive Process Mediated by the U.S.

Initial private talks began in Warsaw in February of 2019 when Brian Hook with the U.S. State Department mediated talks between Netanyahu and several Arab leaders. The Wall Street Journal reports that Hook continued to sponsor conversations after the initial meeting. In June of 2019, Netanyahu’s ambassador to Washington published an op-ed championing Israeli sovereignty and its reach into the West Bank. Foregoing this effort in spite of campaign promises and administration statements was necessary to close the deal.

As it turns out, the two leaders have more common interests than conflicts with one another as indicated by leading think tanks on diplomatic research and foreign policy. Both share enmity with Iran and its proxies, and both favor investment and regional trade. For this reason, they struck a deal and the UAE ruler formally ended its boycott of Israel. Things are now moving quickly.

Ongoing Possibility of Peace and Stability

The official deal and repeal of the UAE’s boycott opens the door to banking, aviation, and other business ventures, which kicked off with an August 31st, 2020 flight from Israel to the UAE. The flight was historic in and of itself, but equally significant is the fact that Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman opened Saudi air space to allow a direct path for the flight. Saudi King Salman thus signaled his support of the deal and its possibilities despite maintaining its Israel boycott in support of a Palestinian state. Now the question becomes which country joins the next peace deal.

Covid-19 Forsakes Syrian Refugees

Regardless of where you live on this pale blue dot, no one has escaped the coronavirus pandemic. The World Health Organization, United Nations, and even our own CDC here at home have told us the inevitable, that the most vulnerable populations among us will be hit the hardest. Truer words have never been spoken. Let’s take a look at a rapidly brewing humanitarian crisis of epic proportions.

 We all know that war-ravaged Syria has displaced millions of people. This crisis of despair is on-going. No sooner have things begun to stabilize, now we see the coronavirus is upon the very refugee camps created to protect those who lost loved ones, their homes, and nearly all their worldly possessions. Currently, many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been working together to bring relief to these refugee camps. These NGOs have been working in concert with the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Northeastern Syria (NES).

 The main NGOs leading the relief effort in the NES include; WHO, Kurdish Red Crescent, and the United Nations. Unfortunately, things went from bad to worse due to the arrival of the coronavirus. These organizations were granted limited access to three checkpoints along the Syrian border, but that number was reduced from three to two, and now to one.

 It’s not difficult to understand why, but medical supplies must get through, as there are just not enough medical facilities, doctors, equipment, PPEs, medicines, or the required supply chain to deal with this pandemic in NES, not to mention the actual refugee camps. Testing is also at issue. Although there have been few coronavirus cases reported in Syria this is most likely because test kits simply have not been made available.

In the districts in the Northeastern Region of Syria medical facilities do not even meet the minimum standard of 18 hospital beds per 10,000 people. The international relief efforts now operate about 58 primary health facilities, 37 mobile clinics, and 13 hospitals – all of which rely on medical supplies, and PPE from across Syrian borders. NGOs have attempted to complain to the United Nations’ Security Council of Syria’s failure to allow shipments, but Russia vetoed the request to look into the issue at the last meeting. 

The Syrian Government claims it has facilitated shipments and processed all the paperwork required, but the NGOs say none have arrived. Have the Syrian refugee camps been forsaken amid the coronavirus? Test kits that moved through Damascus seemed to have pit stopped there, and never made it to their final destination. The total number of infected and the total number of deaths from Covid-19 are simply not known reports foreign policy think tanks tracking COVID-19, like the FDD.

As things get worse and stuck in the bureaucracy and/or in various UN committees people are dying. Although the fighting has stopped, the Syrian Government is not too keen on cross border deliveries to the region which could potentially include weapons, more fighters, or the means to pick up the conflict battle in the future. Turkey doesn’t want the Kurds moving through its border, and the Syrian government doesn’t want any more problems from the Kurdistan area of Iraq moving from one side of the border to the other.

Most Middle East countries do not want these refugees and with the price of oil down they can’t afford to take them even if they did want them. While the rest of the region deals with their own coronavirus problems and they have their hands full, many are on the verge of economic collapse.

Russia as an ally of Syria and involved in the war effort to protect Assad’s Syrian military is not interested in the humanitarian crisis, only protecting the borders during a non-fighting period. If supplies cannot come from Turkey or Iraq, then could they come from Jordan? Well, there seems to be a problem with that, as it would require the convoys to traverse too much of Syria and go through a region where they don’t belong according to a leading report on current events affecting Syria and the Middle East.

Normally, such a humanitarian crisis like this would get the full attention of the world, but right now there is simply too much coronavirus chaos, and nations’ leaders are preoccupied with their own challenges and medical supply needs. Remember everyone needs medical supplies now, so even if the deliveries could be made, they’d still fall short of need, at least this is what indications of how COVID-19 is affecting foreign policy in Syria show us, notes the FDD.

One could say that a big crisis just received the ultimate force-multiplier (the coronavirus pandemic) adding more variables, shortages, and time to any potentially viable solution to the Syrian refugee problem. If you will recall, the EU had already been told by many of its nation members that they were full-up with immigrant refugees even before the Syrian conflict.

The Syrian Government is even using this coronavirus crisis to plant malware and spyware onto the smartphones of those in Syria to find out what they are up to. They are offering an APP for Android Phones that claims to be a digital thermometer so users can track their temperature, it doesn’t work, as it merely shows the same temperature whenever used, but it allows access to the phone and gives geolocation data as well.

As major cities in Syria like Aleppo were bombed by the Russians and the Syrian army millions were displaced and many fled to neighboring countries. Turkey, Jordan, Iraq, and other nations simply couldn’t take anymore. The refugee camps got bigger and bigger, barely manageable, and somewhat controlled chaos at first to an impossible humanitarian crisis not seen in nearly a decade. The data and science and technology information affecting COVID-19 and the Middle East suggests that the refugee camps could lose 100,000 people before all this is over.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Some blame Assad and his regime, some blame the United States, some blame ISIS, some blame Iran, some blame Russia, and foreign policy researchers on COVID-19’s effect say it’s not surprising.

It’s hard to say what will happen to all those refugees, or how many will survive the latest coronavirus crisis, especially considering the issues with hunger in the camps along with the ever-present problem of starvation and extreme weather events the region has experienced so far. Coronavirus and its effect on policy in Syria and the Middle East are not fully known yet, but those with a watchful eye on the issues tell us, this won’t end well.

Iran Regime Still Trying to Buy Nuclear Enrichment Equipment and Weaponry

Iran’s intent on getting nuclear weapons is relentless, and every international diplomacy and international military affairs expert knows this. They are fully aware that this current Iranian regime has absolutely no intention of giving up its long-term plan to become a nuclear power, even if it means the potential demise of its leadership infrastructure hierarchy.

Iran has never honored any agreement made with the international community to cease and desist its nuclear weapons program. Iran has never come clean with all its nuclear weapons research or locations of all its facilities. Rather, inspectors, spy agencies, and resellers of dual-purpose (dual-use) technology and equipment have given us clues and the proof needed to state this fact.

Nothing will stop Iranian’s leadership from seeking the bomb, not a threat of economic collapse, or even a global pandemic which is wreaking havoc on their political establishment. In fact, during this pandemic, Iran has continued its nuclear shopping spree. The mainstream media is aware that the JCPOA deal is dead, and that Iran has procured almost all that’s needed to make and build a bomb, and that their uranium enrichment is all but there now. Yet, the global mainstream media is busy covering the CoronaVirus Pandemic and has made little to no mention of it.

It looks as if Iran is pretending to semi-comply with some of the international nuclear agreements it has made while continuing full-speed ahead to make a nuclear weapon. It appears they will try to do what North Korea did, withdraw from the international agreement framework and then do a nuclear test. Once that happens the cat is out of the bag and the whole scenario changes. Iran has asked for a $5 billion loan to help with problems from the Covid-19 (CoronaVirus) outbreak there, but many worry they will merely use that money to finally complete their project to make a nuclear weapon, as they almost have enough enriched uranium now.

Iran has been buying aluminum oxide and other materials needed to finish the final touches on their nuclear weapons project from sources in Bosnia and other places. They’ve then been moving those purchases through Pakistan and/or Turkey, allowing them to work around sanctions. The Iranian regime knows how to get whatever dual-use nuclear equipment and material it wants using economic sanction loopholes. After all, it’s been doing it for two decades now.

Should the West help with Covid-19 Pandemic Aid to Iran? The International Community is ready to respond, report Iranian foreign policy experts at the Atlantic. The U.S. has offered medical pandemic aid, but the Iranian Regime has turned it down citing a rumor that the U.S. may have caused the outbreak in the first place. Instead, the Regime has asked for a $5 billion loan from the IMF. Giving money might be a mistake, giving aid would be a wise choice, suggest well-informed foreign policy thinkers. Why? It’s simple really, giving humanitarian aid shows empathic intent; we are all in this together.

Iran has taken a big hit by the Covid-19 outbreak, it has been ravaging their society, and it’s doubly worse as Iran’s economy was in free-fall prior to the outbreak, due to economic sanctions note those with expertise on diplomatic policy in the Middle East and Iran. Of course, the gesture might be short-lived. The Iranian Regime also probably doesn’t want U.S. marked aircraft delivering medical supplies, as that might hurt their ‘evil U.S.’ blame-game narrative.

Still, the world wants to help where it can, and NGOs are in action mode. It’s their mission to help, and Iran definitely needs some assistance with the Covid-19 crisis, as they are getting hit as hard as New York City, Paris, Italy, and Spain say non-profit foreign policy think tanks like the FDD. The question still remains, how do you get help into a country that lacks trust in the International Community, and blames the U.S. for the Covid-19 pandemic?

If there is a window of opportunity to unite everyone under a common cause, this global pandemic is it. Unfortunately, that window of opportunity is rapidly closing according to reports and information from leading diplomatic researchers. And, even if aid is given and accepted by the regime, there is probably no chance they will slow their nuclear weapons program in the interim, nor can you expect them not to go back to the same old games after the pandemic crisis is over.

Will Iran Make Nuclear Weapons – Is the JCPOA Dead?

JCPA or JCPOA stands for The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. In Persian, it’s known as BARJAM or barnāmeye jāme’e eqdāme moshtarak. The Obama Administration called it the Iran nuclear deal or Iran deal, and that is pretty much what it is called today by everyone except international diplomacy experts and those who negotiated the agreement. If it dies, the agreement calls for reverting back to 2005 level sanctions. Is it going to die?

Well, just because the United States under the Trump Administration exited the agreement, it doesn’t make the agreement null and void. Remember there are many other parties to this agreement. The UK, France, Germany, China, Russia, and others as a signer. Thus, theoretically, the agreement is in full force and effect, right? Well, yes and no. You see, since the U.S. redrew from the agreement and implemented economic sanctions, Iran’s leadership has blown past their enrichment limits and purposefully violated other terms.

One could argue that Iran never fully complied with the nuclear agreement from the beginning, and there is now proof that they had lied about their nuclear weapons ambitions. So, perhaps the JCPOA wasn’t worth the paper it was written on, and the Trump Administration got it right and unilaterally took action.

Why Did the U.S. Withdraw from the JCPA or JCPOA?

It wasn’t just one thing or one reason. There were many reasons such as Iran’s meddling in the U.S. Military’s mission in Syria, Iraq, and the funding of proxy terrorist organizations throughout the region. President Trump made a campaign promise to get out of the Iranian Nuclear Deal if elected and to renegotiate a better deal. He still may do that.

Will the Trump Administration honor a deal made by the remaining parties of the agreement? Yes, if it meets his additional terms regarding ballistic missiles, proxy terrorist support, free trade, and commerce movement in the Persian Gulf in addition to better checks and verifications on nuclear weapons-grade uranium enrichment.

What Are the Other Parties to the JCPOA Doing About the Situation? 

Germany and France have invoked a clause in the Iran Nuclear Agreement that calls for dispute resolution. This had slowed down the game a little and has given everyone time to pause and consider the ramification of a potential war. Now that the UK has completed its BREXIT with the EU, the UK is looking to make a favorable trade deal with the U.S. and it’s possible the UK could follow the U.S. and call to end the Iran Nuclear Agreement.

The problem in the meantime is that Iran is continuing to enrich uranium to 5% and some believe they are well on their way to getting enough nuclear material to make a nuclear bomb according to recent reports from The Atlantic. Once they get to 5%, getting to 20% is a lot less work and from there to the 98% needed a hop, skip and a jump.

What Was the Original Intention of the JCPOA – Iran Nuclear Deal?

Originally, one of the Obama Administration’s goals in the deal was to keep Iran from ever getting closer to a year from having enough enriched uranium material to make a bomb says policy analysts at the think tank, FDD. The problem is that since the U.S. withdrew from the agreement, Iran which is suffering greatly under economic sanctions has chosen to use it as an excuse to further violate the terms of the agreement.

What Happens Next?

Iran is now using extortion tactics to persuade France and Germany to intervene and help with economic relief and bring the U.S. back to the table, as indicated by leading foreign policy analysts.

It turns out that this move by Iran may have been a severe miscalculation, along with their attacks on oil assets in the Persian Gulf, shooting down of an American Drone, planning attacks on U.S. Embassies in the Middle East, attacking a couple of U.S. Military Bases, and shooting down a civilian airliner, note researchers at one of the leading foreign policy think tanks. The Trump Administration is in control, economic sanctions are working and Iran is on its last leg.

Some experts on diplomacy and foreign policy suggest that timing is everything and the Trump Administration has perfectly played its cards. Iran appears to be about 5 to 10 months away from getting enough enriched uranium to make a couple of bombs, and they appear to have the technological know-how to build warheads and they’ve demonstrated their ballistic missile technology, but time is running out for the regime. Their main proxy terrorist chief Solemani has been snuffed out by a U.S. drone strike and their ability to pull a last-minute strike like a cornered tiger is going to be a lot harder to pull off now.

Meanwhile, the political wheels in the U.S. are turning as it is an election year, and the Democrats want to try to limit Trump’s war powers against Iran. This is no time to pull-back, it’s time to get tougher. So, the plot thickens to this very critical set of circumstances.

What is the Future of ISIS Now That Baghdadi is Gone?

We all know it would be premature to call ISIS defeated just because the self-proclaimed leader of the modern day Caliphate has met his demise. The idea of a Caliphate is still alive and well in the minds of many ISIS fighters. Just because ISIS is all but defeated in Syria, doesn’t mean its brutality and activities is over, far from it, warn experts on the matter. ISIS is very much becoming a global organization, and we’ve already seen the havoc it can cause throughout the Middle East and elsewhere.

Let’s discuss what happens next as the U.S. withdraws from the fight, pulls troops out of Syria, and declares a job well done. ISIS fighters are still out there in large numbers and have a presence in what looks to be 20 provinces or so. Organized groups, call them franchises if you’d like, ready to continue the fight, while recruiting more. The concept of a modern day Islamic Caliphate isn’t gone.

What is This Modern Day Caliphate All About Anyway?

Well historically in Islam, Muhammad was the divine leader of all of Islam. His first successor was Caliph Abu Bakr and ruled over what was the first Caliphate or the “Rashidun Caliphate’. According to historians, there were four Caliphs of the Islamic Empire. The Rashidun Caliphate lasted approximately 30-years.

It was the goal of Osama bin Laden to eventually unite all of Islam into a Caliphate, a lifetime project even he believed would take centuries to complete. Baghdadi had more aggressive plans to unite all of Islam under one rule, a Caliphate, and declared himself the leader.

This was a rather bold move considering a Caliphate didn’t exist, as individual countries make up most of the Islamic World today. It was also a rather harsh dictatorial approach, as only God (Allah) could decide the mortal human leader of the Caliphate. Baghdadi didn’t care and waged war within countries on anyone who resisted. Driven by religious conviction and recruiting passionate Muslims to come to fight, they brutally set out to set the clocks back to the past period of the Rashidun Caliphate.

We’ve Seen What ISIS Did in Its Quest – What Will It Try Next?

Needless to say, Baghdadi might be dead, but the passion, rage, and fervor of his followers is still very much alive. As ISIS finds defeat in Syria, its fighters have not all been killed, many have slipped away leaving the area to fight another day. Remember the recruited fighters came from all over, some as far away as North America, many from Europe, Africa, Indonesia, and most from the Middle East. These fighters are battle hardened and we’d be in denial to believe they no longer have the same ideology.

What about Syria, is ISIS totally defeated in Syria? There is no doubt that Baghdadi’s death is a major symbolic blow to ISIS. After all, he was the ‘leader of the Caliphate’ even if self-proclaimed. ISIS has lost in Syria, but its organization elsewhere is still in operation. Just in the last few years, ISIS has set up operations in Central Africa, India, and Pakistan. We can expect ISIS in Turkey to grow bolder and come out of the shadows there.

The Reality has Set In – ISIS isn’t Going Away – But Is It Our Fight?

There is a lot of talk in the Washington D.C. area foreign policy think tanks about what the U.S. ought to be doing about Syria now that ISIS is on the run, and what we should do about ISIS going forward. In 2016 Trump ran on “getting the US out of these endless wars” and the fight against ISIS is the epitome of an endless war merely because the leadership of ISIS and its fighters see it as such. They won’t stop until every infidel has been converted or killed or so they proclaim.

One of the goals of these Islamic fighters is to outlast their enemies’ will to fight and then defeat them. ISIS sees this as a generational fight, an on-going struggle, and it gives them a sense of purpose. Such strong will makes ISIS a dangerous adversary. Foreign policy researchers at the FDD remind us that it would be naïve to believe that ISIS is totally defeated or that merely killing its leader will cause the organization to crumble.

The Trump Administration is facing reality and weighing the taxpayers’ costs of the fight, and the loss of American lives to continue according to experts on international diplomacy. Their ‘realist’ approach is indeed an ‘America First’ point of view. Still, we have allies in the region who’ve counted on us to help keep the peace. Withdrawing troops puts forth further instability in the region.

What Comes Next In Syria With ISIS?

International diplomacy researchers at the FDD are watching closely to see if the U.S. withdrawal in Syria will relieve tensions among allies in the region or if it will, in the end, turn out to be the best choice provided the circumstances. It appears the Kurdish fighters in Syria are going to take some serious losses, and the remaining ISIS fighters will be further decimated by a combination of Turkish, Syrian, and Russian military advances according to research from the FDD. So, is this the end of the United States’ involvement in the Syrian Conflict? President Trump has warned that any mass slaughtering of Christians or the Kurds will not be tolerated there.

Does this mean we are only partially withdrawing from Syria and keeping an eye on the situation, or was that ‘warning’ or suggested ‘redline’ just more political rhetoric? Were our announcements of withdrawal overstated for purposes of misdirection for the enemy? The three-dimensional chessboard of diplomacy is filled with items of contention, each one examined under its own merits and how it fits into the larger scheme of things. It’s difficult to judge foreign policy endeavors by watching the media pundits who have only half the information. What comes next in Syria is anyone’s guess.