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President Biden, after little more than a month in power, has used military force for the first time--against Iran. In my previous post here, "Biden and Iran: Two Questions," I asked what the president would do if Iran--via the Iraqi Shia militias it supports and controls--continued its attacks on Americans in Iraq and killed Americans. We still do not know the answer, because recent attacks by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq wounded but did not kill Americans.
In an article in National Review, I discussed this issue:
One of the key functions of the Shiite militias in Iraq is to allow Iran to attack U.S. forces while, by absorbing any penalty, keeping Iran safe. If there are a series of attacks, harming Americans and eventually killing one or more, the kind of limited response from the United States that we saw this past week will not be enough. That does not mean World War III and it does not mean American bombers over Tehran, but it does mean that Biden must contemplate striking Iranian assets rather than expendable proxy groups.
This confrontation in Iraq between the United States and Iran is occurring while the 2015 nuclear deal seems no closer to revival than it was on Election Day. As I said in National Review,
The very least that can be said about President Biden’s second month in power is that we are seeing any dreams of a quick return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, also known as the JCPOA, and a quick resolution to U.S.-Iranian confrontations dissolve before our eyes.
Meanwhile, Iran is now refusing access to IAEA inspectors, in violation of both the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Additional Protocol to the JCPOA (which requires Iran to allow snap IAEA inspections), and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei recently spoke of enrichment of uranium to the sixty percent level--a level needed only for nuclear weapons. This is certainly not where Mr. Biden and his closest aides, looking ahead on Election Day 2020, can possibly have thought U.S.-Iran relations would be in his second month in office.