Will Biden rejoin the Iran deal or attack? - opinion

President-elect Joe Biden will have to see if he can reestablish the agreement once he assumes office, after Trump withdrew from it on May 8, 2018.

US PRESIDENT-ELECT Joe Biden delivers an address ahead of Thanksgiving at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, November 25, 2020 (photo credit: JOSHUA ROBERTS / REUTERS)
US PRESIDENT-ELECT Joe Biden delivers an address ahead of Thanksgiving at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, November 25, 2020
(photo credit: JOSHUA ROBERTS / REUTERS)
Israel and Iran are waiting to see what changes will occur in US foreign policy following the recent elections there. The Biden administration will not repeat the same steps the Obama administration took but there is already a resemblance between them. Some officials who served in the Obama administration will hold top positions in the Biden administration as well, some of whom were involved in the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, the JCPOA.
President-elect Joe Biden will have to see if he can reestablish the agreement once he assumes office, after Trump withdrew from it on May 8, 2018. Iran breached the JCPOA, and now demands a lot for again accepting its restrictions. For example, it wants the US to compensate Iran for sanctions it imposed. Biden can try to reach some kind of compromise with Iran, but it might not work if Iran insists on its exaggerated demands.
On November 27, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s nuclear program, was assassinated near Tehran. Amos Yadlin, a former head of IDF intelligence, argued that an Iran retaliation “would provide a pretext for a US-led attack on Iranian nuclear facilities.”
US heavy bombers, B-52s, were recently sent to the Middle East to deter actions by US rivals, mostly Iran. There have also been reports suggesting the Trump administration might strike Iran, however, this seems unlikely. Trump has been quite careful about using force, despite all his warnings, such as those he has issued against North Korea and Iran. Trump has launched a few strikes during his presidency, but those were in Iraq.
Trump seeks to end the US military presence in Afghanistan, where it has been engaged since 2001. Afghanistan is next to Iran. Trump is not aiming to take US troops out of Afghanistan through Iran. He does not want to start a war with the Islamic Republic. Although a US strike against Iran might be limited, it could deteriorate into a war. Although Trump has proved his willingness to take risks, he does not want his legacy to be a war with Iran.
The Trump administration, until it is replaced, will continue its “maximum pressure” of heavy sanctions on Iran. The purpose has been to get Iran to negotiate with the United States about a new deal, one that will include not only Iran’s nuclear program but also other issues, such as Iran’s ballistic missile program. Iran has refused to negotiate, let alone accept more restrictions.
Iran breached the JCPOA and has gotten closer to having a nuclear weapon, although it is still far from having one. If Iran is about to produce a nuclear weapon, the US will have to decide whether to allow Iran to be like North Korea and have a nuclear weapon, or to attack it.

IRAN IS already a rogue state. If it gains a nuclear weapon, it will be a huge game-changer, one of the biggest the Middle East has ever seen. It would seriously destabilize the region, pushing other states to seek nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia already implied that it will produce a nuclear weapon if Iran gets one.
The United States will do almost anything to avoid getting into another war in the Middle East. To begin with, the US wants to focus on other internal and external priorities. War is absolutely not one of them, in any region. It does not matter to the United States if fighting Iran would not be as bad as confronting China or even North Korea. Iran is much weaker than China. It does not have a nuclear weapon, which North Korea does. North Korea could also devastate South Korea, where there are US troops, with massive conventional bombardments.
Iran could launch its missiles across the Gulf to hit US bases there and Arab Gulf states as well, mostly its nemesis, Saudi Arabia, since it is a US ally. Those Arab states might not assist the US in striking Iran, but for Iran that would not matter. Iran could inflict serious damage, including trying to close the Strait of Hormuz, a key spot for the global oil market. Iran could also use its proxies against the US and its allies in the region, such as Israel. Iran could launch terrorist operations and cyberattacks, not only in the Middle East but against the US itself.
However, Iran might exercise restraint, fearing a massive US retaliation that would bring down the Islamic Republic’s regime. If the United States carries out a limited strike, though, aimed only at Iran’s nuclear sites, the ramifications to the US and its allies might not be too significant. Iran would respond, but perhaps not in a way that would ignite a war. However, the US does not want to take such a huge risk, and for very good reasons.
This leads us to conclude that the US might tolerate Iran producing a nuclear weapon. Together with other powers, the US would, of course, condemn Iran and add further sanctions against it. We might also see US threats to use force against Iran, but that is unlikely to happen. At most, the United States, unofficially, might allow Israel to strike Iran. Israel will certainly not let Iran produce a nuclear weapon. Israel barely accepts that Iran has a nuclear program. Therefore, Israel might attack Iran, despite all the risks, hoping to receive significant US military and political support during and after the raid.
Dr. Ehud Eilam has been studying Israel’s national security for more than 25 years. He served in the IDF and later worked for the Defense Ministry as a researcher. He has published six books, the latest being Containment in the Middle East.