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

Iran and the Tightrope

The simmering crisis over Iran's nuclear program is threatening to reignite after Britain, France and Germany warned Tehran they would trigger a return of UN sanctions against it if it enriched uranium to the optimal level for a nuclear weapon.

The announcement was made in a Reuters political analysis about the challenges facing the current American administration. Interestingly, the threat to Iran was made last year and only now revealed.

Some White House aides may prefer to keep Iran off the president's desk, officials and analysts suggested they may not have that luxury.

"They are busy with Ukraine, Russia and they don't want, for the time being, to open another front," said a Western diplomat on condition of anonymity, according to the Reuters report. "Therefore, they want to do everything in their power to prevent this (90%) from happening."

The question is, why is the analysis saying that the nuclear file could ignite once again? Why did Reuters cite information that had never been revealed before and which is that the three European foreign ministers had threatened Iran with a return of sanctions?

The US is no doubt leaning towards this approach in the nuclear file. I learned from informed sources that Washington had explained to some of its regional allies that it was concerned about Iran’s ability to reach the nuclear threshold.

The sources said Washington was not interested in kicking off new negotiations even if the usual Gulf mediator was making moves and even as a clear message was delivered to Tehran that the military option was not off the table, significantly amid pressure from Israel.

Days earlier, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy that his country was still seeking a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear program.

"We have made clear to Iran that it can never be permitted to obtain a nuclear weapon," he added. "The president has committed himself like other presidents before him to ensuring that Iran does not achieve a nuclear weapon."

"We remain determined to ensure that that challenge does not cross the line to Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. We will take the necessary action to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon. At the end of the day, that’s the fundamental test: Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon. They do not today, and they cannot have one."

Sullivan added that his country was working with allies, including Israel, to deter Iran.

Dennis Ross, a veteran US diplomat now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank, suggested the US may have to do more to make Iran fear the consequences of enriching to higher levels.

"If you don't do enough to persuade the Iranians of the risks they are running, you will face a crisis at some point because they will go to 90%" or move toward weaponization, he said, according to Reuters. "What you are seeing is an effort to walk that tightrope."