Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command (CENTCOM), told Time Magazine on Wednesday that his forces are prepared for a potential military option against Iran should talks to revive the nuclear deal fail.
“The diplomats are in the lead on this, but Central Command always has a variety of plans that we could execute, if directed,” McKenzie said.
US officials often speak of the potential for failure in negotiations with Iran and like to portray Tehran as the difficult party. But it was the US that withdrew from the JCPOA in the first place, and President Biden’s hardline stance is to blame for why earlier talks failed.
Robert Malley, Biden’s special envoy for Iran, also delivered a threat on Wednesday. He said if the talks dragged out, the US would not “sit idly” while Iran’s nuclear program grew. “If they start getting too close, too close for comfort, then of course we will not be prepared to sit idly,” Malley told NPR.
Delivering threats against Iran ahead of the next round of JCPOA negotiations, which will begin on November 29th, does not signal that the US is serious about diplomacy. The US has also slapped fresh sanctions on Iran in the weeks leading up to the talks.
Both Malley and McKenzie frame potential action as necessary to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, pointing to Iran’s uranium enrichment levels as evidence they are close. But Iran’s steps to increase enrichment were made in response to Israeli covert attacks.
Now, it’s clear Iran will use its current enrichment levels as leverage for the upcoming negotiations. Iran has also pledged countless times that it has no intention of developing a nuclear weapon and is a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.