Getting to ‘No’ with Iran

Deputy Director Eric Brewer and Henry Rome on the "Plan B" options if the Iran Deal does not succeed.

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By Eric Brewer and Henry Rome

With negotiations to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resuming in Vienna this week, the prospects for success appear slim. Tehran does not seem as interested in the deal as it was and may well be willing to let the deal die rather than compromise. Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi has appointed hardliners to the negotiations who are repeating maximalist demands that the West has been clear it cannot accept. Iran has also rapidly expanded its nuclear program, reducing the utility of the 2015 agreement and coming closer to mastering the skills needed to build a bomb.

Despite this, the United States and Europe are hesitant to declare the Vienna process a failure. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action has a gravitational pull in Western circles, precisely because the painstakingly negotiated deal succeeded in peacefully setting back Iran’s nuclear program. What is more, the alternatives to the deal, including military action, are not very promising. Yet, supporters of diplomacy and the deal in the United States and Europe must today face the uncomfortable reality of the deal’s demise — barring a major, and immediate, Iranian about-face. In the coming weeks and months, this will require the West to look beyond the old deal to a broader, messier suite of options, including sharpening the set of coercive tools that have remained dormant since the last nuclear crisis…

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