The seventh round of indirect negotiations to revive the 2015 JCOBA agreement has ended in Vienna without progress. Each party blamed the other for the failure of the negotiations so far.
As Tehran held the US responsible for refusing to lift sanctions, the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken warned that Washington would not allow Iran to prolong the talks while continuing to advance its nuclear program. He added that America will pursue other options if diplomacy fails.
Blinken's assessment was reiterated by President Joe Biden, whose spokesperson Jen Psaki said that progress had been made during the first six rounds of talks, but Iran's approach had fallen short with no impetus to resolve remaining issues.
It seems that time is running out. Talks are set to resume tomorrow, but it doesn’t look like Iran is going to make the compromises needed for the US to come back to the table.
This means that Plan B for the US government to corner Tehran and contain its nuclear program could be introduced. We still don’t know the details of this plan, but according to news reports, it might include persuading China to shut off oil imports from Iran; ramping up sanctions - including targeting oil sales to China; launching covert operations to sabotage the nuclear program; ordering military strikes against nuclear facilities, or supporting Israeli military action.
However, any strategy of sorts that does not include Iran’s regional threat and its military operations in the region, including in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon, will face a brick wall.
Plan B must curb the regime on all fronts because otherwise Tehran will survive fresh sanctions and diplomatic pressure, as it has done so far, despite economic hardships.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) will only take notice when their regional advances and gains are threatened.
The nuclear program has always been Tehran’s tool to force the international community to recognize its power and negotiate a deal that would give its militants a free hand in the region in return.
Its resistance narrative was used to garner popular support, establish power in Lebanon, and pose a threat to Israel reflecting its power in the region.
The scenario that will unfold in the region if the US and Europe ignore Iran’s regional activities again will be terrible.
First, the land bridge – that is the four countries under the IRGC control - will witness further economic collapse, immigration, and refugees flooding into Europe. This will happen simply because the regime’s proxies have never developed a socio-economic vision after taking control of a state and its institutions.
Collapse and humanitarian tragedies already stretch along all the countries that have fallen to its proxies.
Second, the possibility of war will increase, as Israel has made it very clear that if the US won’t deal with Iran’s threat on its borders, it will.
Israel has been dealing in its own way with the IRGC threat for many years, with increased military attacks in Syria, drastically reducing Iran’s military infrastructure, but without eliminating it.
Expanding these military operations in the region, specifically in Lebanon, could lead to a Hezbollah retaliation, a spark that could ignite a serious conflict and much destruction in both Israel and Lebanon.
According to Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel has recently bought around $1.58 billion in sophisticated ordnances from the United States as part of its preparations for a military strike against Iran. Israel is readying itself for war.
In case of failed talks and the possibility of a Plan B taking effect, this could be an opportunity for the US to coordinate with its regional partner, and properly target Iran’s regional threat, while avoiding a devastating war.
Third if it is paralleled by Europeans snapping back existing sanctions on Tehran, while imposing new ones on its proxies and regional allies, this could push Iran to reconsider its strategy.
A coordinated and unified US-European policy that targets Iran’s regional power and influence would push the regime to compromise, and eventually accept a better deal for all, including the people of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.