Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Iran … No Plan B

The gist of what we have read and heard from American and western statements after Iran’s response to the “final proposal” offered by the European Union to the Iranians and Americans over the revival of the nuclear deal is that there is no Plan B to deal with Tehran.

For example, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Iran’s response makes reaching a deal unlikely in the near future.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said: “I’m sorry to say that I am less confident today… about the convergence of the negotiation process and about the prospect of closing the deal right now.”

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said his country was not concerned with the nuclear deal, whether it is signed or not, and that it agreed with Washington that it has the right to act against Iran.

All this proves that there is no Plan B over how to deal with Iran.

It is difficult to predict whether a nuclear deal will be sealed after the US midterm elections. Therefore, more and more officials in Washington are urging the need to threaten military force against Iran if it fails to commit to stopping its nuclear program.

Not all of these officials are warmongers, on the contrary. Most prominent of these figures is influential former ambassador Dennis Ross, a Democrat, who wrote an article in Foreign Policy titled, “A New Iran Deal Won’t Prevent an Iranian Bomb.”

Commenting on calls that world must live with a nuclear Iran, he remarked: “They fail to see how others in the region are going to respond,” warning of the danger of undermining the stability of the Middle East.

He added: “The bottom line is without a deal, Iran will draw closer to having a bomb sooner rather than later. With a resurrected Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), it becomes later rather than sooner - unless the Biden administration and its successors act to convince Iranian officials of the risks they are running, including by very explicitly conveying that Washington will use force to prevent it.”

Tehran must realize that Washington “will act at a certain point and take out their entire nuclear infrastructure.”

Blinken “should make a speech on Iran,” suggested Ross. “He should explain why it is imperative that Iran not acquire nuclear arms.” He added that President Joe Biden should use his speech at the United Nations General Assembly this month to “reinforce” Blinken’s remarks.

Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, had previously called on the Biden administration to show some realism instead of idealism in its foreign policy.

All of the above had been proposed before 2015, but the Obama administration ignored it. The Democrats also ignored the “maximum pressure” policy that was adopted by former President Donald Trump against Iran. They even strongly protested the killing of Qassem Soleimani that Iran has yet to recover from.

Today, if the US and Europeans fail to come up with a Plan B and clearly and credibly threaten to use military force against Tehran, which is close to the nuclear threshold, then the consequences may threaten to destroy the international order and lead to an arms race.

Plan B must include a real threat. Actions are needed, not words. Washington and the West must realize that it is time to replace the olive branch with a stick and this is language that Iran understands very well.