The truth is that thanks to the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, Iran is much weaker today than it was when the nuclear accord was enacted. Refusing to engage in talks toward a more robust agreement, Iran has suffered crippling sanctions. These restrictions have depleted Tehran’s ability to fund terrorist groups such as its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Lebanese Hezbollah, and the Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq. The peoples of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and the Sunni-Arab monarchies have benefited most from this restraint. As an extension, Iran now faces a short-term choice between sanctions relief and the growing possibility of regime collapse. Domestic economic pressures have fueled the young Iranian population’s desire for a better, freer future. Unless Iran’s theocratic elite can give their people a respite, their people may well give them a revolutionary riposte. For all their hectoring rhetoric, Iran’s leaders are aware that they have a big problem.
Yet, it’s not simply the Trump administration’s pressure campaign that defines why Biden should pause before throwing the regime a lifeline. It’s the fact that Iran is now in active and varied breach of the 2015 deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency this week declared that Iran has now acquired an enriched uranium stockpile 12 times larger than that which it agreed to store under the nuclear deal. Iran is also restricting inspections access and trumpeting its installation of increasingly advanced centrifuges. To accept these activities without sanctions action, as the remaining signatories to the deal and the Biden camp appear to support, isn’t just folly — it’s dangerous. It would enable Iran to gain sanctions relief alongside a stockpile of material that could quickly be enriched to a higher, weapons-grade quality.