The brazen assassination of the head of Iran’s former nuclear weapons program last month and Iran’s threats of retaliation have — once again — highlighted how quickly tensions can escalate in the Middle East. Observers rightly noted that the perpetrator — likely Israel — was probably motivated by a desire to complicate President-elect Joe Biden’s plan of resuscitating the Iran nuclear deal. But perhaps most of all these events are a stark reminder that, even though Iran’s weapons program ended over 15 years ago, the ghosts of that program continue to haunt the present.
For a Biden administration keen on re-entering the nuclear deal, convincing Tehran to rollback its nuclear program might be the easy part. Indeed, Tehran has repeatedly stated it will come back into compliance with the 2015 accord that President Donald Trump withdrew from, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, if the United States does the same. But the harder task might be deciding what to do about Iran’s nuclear weapons past.
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