“Our nuclear program is advancing as planned and time is on our side,” an unnamed Iranian official bluntly told Reuters on May 5. “Oil sales have doubled,” noted Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi last Monday. In short, since the election of Joe Biden, Tehran has not only made impressive strides toward a nuclear weapons capability but repaired much of the financial damage done by U.S. sanctions.
It’s plain to see the clerical regime is in no rush to negotiate a revised nuclear deal. What’s the hurry when both oil exports and enriched uranium stockpiles are surging? But the risk here is not just that Tehran keeps stalling. It is that protracted negotiations may provide cover for a nuclear breakout—that is, the production of enough weapons-grade uranium for one or more bombs.
How Biden Let It Happen
The Biden administration has a standard response when reporters ask why Iran is enriching uranium to higher and higher levels or deploying more advanced centrifuges: It’s all Donald Trump’s fault. Tehran’s provocations are just an ongoing response to Trump’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
A bit of history shows this is a hollow excuse. Before Biden won the 2020 election, the clerical regime made cautious and incremental moves on the nuclear front. Sensing Biden’s avid interest in restoring the JCPOA, the regime in Tehran began to test him. Would he stay at the table and keep relaxing sanctions enforcement even as the clerical regime ramped up its nuclear program? He would.