Real Risk, Few Precautions (Revelation 6:12)



Published: October 24, 1989
AN EARTHQUAKE as powerful as the one that struck northern California last week could occur almost anywhere along the East Coast, experts say. And if it did, it would probably cause far more destruction than the West Coast quake.
The chances of such an occurrence are much less in the East than on the West Coast. Geologic stresses in the East build up only a hundredth to a thousandth as fast as in California, and this means that big Eastern quakes are far less frequent. Scientists do not really know what the interval between them might be, nor are the deeper-lying geologic faults that cause them as accessible to study. So seismologists are at a loss to predict when or where they will strike.
But they do know that a temblor with a magnitude estimated at 7 on the Richter scale – about the same magnitude as last week’s California quake – devastated Charleston, S.C., in 1886. And after more than a decade of study, they also know that geologic structures similar to those that caused the Charleston quake exist all along the Eastern Seaboard.
For this reason, ”we can’t preclude that a Charleston-sized earthquake might occur anywhere along the East Coast,” said David Russ, the assistant chief geologist of the United States Geological Survey in Reston, Va. ”It could occur in Washington. It could occur in New York.”
If that happens, many experts agree, the impact will probably be much greater than in California.Easterners, unlike Californians, have paid very little attention to making buildings and other structures earthquake-proof or earthquake-resistant. ”We don’t have that mentality here on the East Coast,” said Robert Silman, a New York structural engineer whose firm has worked on 3,800 buildings in the metropolitan area.
Moreover, buildings, highways, bridges, water and sewer systems and communications networks in the East are all older than in the West and consequently more vulnerable to damage. Even under normal conditions, for instance, water mains routinely rupture in New York City.
The result, said Dr. John Ebel, a geophysicist who is the assistant director of Boston College’s Weston Observatory, is that damage in the East would probably be more widespread, more people could be hurt and killed, depending on circumstances like time of day, and ”it would probably take a lot longer to get these cities back to useful operating levels.”
On top of this, scientists say, an earthquake in the East can shake an area 100 times larger than a quake of the same magnitude in California. This is because the earth’s crust is older, colder and more brittle in the East and tends to transmit seismic energy more efficiently. ”If you had a magnitude 7 earthquake and you put it halfway between New York City and Boston,” Dr. Ebel said, ”you would have the potential of doing damage in both places,” not to mention cities like Hartford and Providence.
Few studies have been done of Eastern cities’ vulnerability to earthquakes. But one, published last June in The Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, calculated the effects on New York City of a magnitude 6 earthquake. That is one-tenth the magnitude of last week’s California quake, but about the same as the Whittier, Calif., quake two years ago.
The study found that such an earthquake centered 17 miles southeast of City Hall, off Rockaway Beach, would cause $11 billion in damage to buildings and start 130 fires. By comparison, preliminary estimates place the damage in last week’s California disaster at $4 billion to $10 billion. If the quake’s epicenter were 11 miles southeast of City Hall, the study found, there would be about $18 billion in damage; if 5 miles, about $25 billion.
No estimates on injuries or loss of life were made. But a magnitude 6 earthquake ”would probably be a disaster unparalleled in New York history,” wrote the authors of the study, Charles Scawthorn and Stephen K. Harris of EQE Engineering in San Francisco.
The study was financed by the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research at the State University of New York at Buffalo. The research and education center, supported by the National Science Foundation and New York State, was established in 1986 to help reduce damage and loss of life from earthquakes.
The study’s postulated epicenter of 17 miles southeast of City Hall was the location of the strongest quake to strike New York since it has been settled, a magnitude 5 temblor on Aug. 10, 1884. That 1884 quake rattled bottles and crockery in Manhattan and frightened New Yorkers, but caused little damage. Seismologists say a quake of that order is likely to occur within 50 miles of New York City every 300 years. Quakes of magnitude 5 are not rare in the East. The major earthquake zone in the eastern half of the country is the central Mississippi Valley, where a huge underground rift causes frequent geologic dislocations and small temblors. The most powerful quake ever known to strike the United States occurred at New Madrid, Mo., in 1812. It was later estimated at magnitude 8.7 and was one of three quakes to strike that area in 1811-12, all of them stronger than magnitude 8. They were felt as far away as Washington, where they rattled chandeliers, Boston and Quebec.
Because the New Madrid rift is so active, it has been well studied, and scientists have been able to come up with predictions for the central Mississippi valley, which includes St. Louis and Memphis. According to Dr. Russ, there is a 40 to 63 percent chance that a quake of magnitude 6 will strike that area between now and the year 2000, and an 86 to 97 percent chance that it will do so by 2035. The Federal geologists say there is a 1 percent chance or less of a quake greater than magnitude 7 by 2000, and a 4 percent chance or less by 2035.
Elsewhere in the East, scientists are limited in their knowledge of probabilities partly because faults that could cause big earthquakes are buried deeper in the earth’s crust. In contrast to California, where the boundary between two major tectonic plates creates the San Andreas and related faults, the eastern United States lies in the middle of a major tectonic plate. Its faults are far less obvious, their activity far more subtle, and their slippage far slower. 
Any large earthquake would be ”vastly more serious” in the older cities of the East than in California,  said Dr. Tsu T. Soong, a professor of civil engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo who is a researcher in earthquake-mitigation technology at the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research. First, he said, many buildings are simply older, and therefore weaker and more  vulnerable to collapse. Second, there is no seismic construction code in most of the East as there is in California, where such codes have been in place for decades.
The vulnerability is evident in many ways. ”I’m sitting here looking out my window,” said Mr. Silman, the structural engineer in New York, ”and I see a bunch of water tanks all over the place” on rooftops. ”They are not anchored down at all, and it’s very possible they would fall in an earthquake.”
 Many brownstones, he said, constructed as they are of unreinforced masonry walls with wood joists between, ”would just go like a house of cards.” Unreinforced masonry, in fact, is the single most vulnerable structure, engineers say. Such buildings are abundant, even predominant, in many older cities. The Scawthorn-Harris study reviewed inventories of all buildings in Manhattan as of 1972 and found that 28,884, or more than half, were built of unreinforced masonry. Of those, 23,064 were three to five stories high.
Buildings of reinforced masonry, reinforced concrete and steel would hold up much better, engineers say, and wooden structures are considered intrinsically tough in ordinary circumstances. The best performers, they say, would probably be skyscrapers built in the last 20 years. As Mr. Silman explained, they have been built to withstand high winds, and the same structural features that enable them to do so also help them resist an earthquake’s force. But even these new towers have not been provided with the seismic protections required in California and so are more vulnerable than similar structures on the West Coast.
Buildings in New York are not generally constructed with such seismic protections as base-isolated structures, in which the building is allowed to shift with the ground movement; or with flexible frames that absorb and distribute energy through columns and beams so that floors can flex from side to side, or with reinforced frames that help resist distortion.
”If you’re trying to make a building ductile – able to absorb energy – we’re not geared to think that way,” said Mr. Silman.
New York buildings also contain a lot of decorative stonework, which can be dislodged and turned into lethal missiles by an earthquake. In California, building codes strictly regulate such architectural details.
Manhattan does, however, have at least one mitigating factor: ”We are blessed with this bedrock island,” said Mr. Silman. ”That should work to our benefit; we don’t have shifting soils. But there are plenty of places that are problem areas, particularly the shoreline areas,” where landfills make the ground soft and unstable.
As scientists have learned more about geologic faults in the Northeast, the nation’s uniform building code – the basic, minimum code followed throughout the country – has been revised accordingly. Until recently, the code required newly constructed buildings in New York City to withstand at least 19 percent of the side-to-side seismic force that a comparable building in the seismically active areas of California must handle. Now the threshold has been raised to 25 percent.
New York City, for the first time, is moving to adopt seismic standards as part of its own building code. Local and state building codes can and do go beyond the national code. Charles M. Smith Jr., the city Building Commissioner, last spring formed a committee of scientists, engineers, architects and government officials to recommend the changes.
”They all agree that New York City should anticipate an earthquake,” Mr. Smith said. As to how big an earthquake, ”I don’t think anybody would bet on a magnitude greater than 6.5,” he said. ”I don’t know,” he added, ”that our committee will go so far as to acknowledge” the damage levels in the Scawthorn-Harris study, characterizing it as ”not without controversy.”
For the most part, neither New York nor any other Eastern city has done a detailed survey of just how individual buildings and other structures would be affected, and how or whether to modify them.
”The thing I think is needed in the East is a program to investigate all the bridges” to see how they would stand up to various magnitudes of earthquake,” said Bill Geyer, the executive vice president of the New York engineering firm of Steinman, Boynton, Gronquist and Birdsall, which is rehabilitating the cable on the Williamsburg Bridge. ”No one has gone through and done any analysis of the existing bridges.”
In general, he said, the large suspension bridges, by their nature, ”are not susceptible to the magnitude of earthquake you’d expect in the East.” But the approaches and side spans of some of them might be, he said, and only a bridge-by-bridge analysis would tell. Nor, experts say, are some elevated highways in New York designed with the flexibility and ability to accommodate motion that would enable them to withstand a big temblor.
Tunnels Vulnerable
The underground tunnels that carry travelers under the rivers into Manhattan, those that contain the subways and those that carry water, sewers and natural gas would all be vulnerable to rupture, engineers say. The Lincoln, Holland, PATH and Amtrak tunnels, for instance, go from bedrock in Manhattan to soft soil under the Hudson River to bedrock again in New Jersey, said Mark Carter, a partner in Raamot Associates, geotechnical engineers specializing in soils and foundations.
Likewise, he said, subway tunnels between Manhattan and Queens go from hard rock to soft soil to hard rock on Roosevelt Island, to soft soil again and back to rock. The boundaries between soft soil and rock are points of weakness, he said.
”These structures are old,” he said, ”and as far as I know they have not been designed for earthquake loadings.”
Even if it is possible to survey all major buildings and facilities to determine what corrections can be made, cities like New York would then face a major decision: Is it worth spending the money to modify buildings and other structures to cope with a quake that might or might not come in 100, or 200 300 years or more?
”That is a classical problem” in risk-benefit analysis, said Dr. George Lee, the acting director of the Earthquake Engineering Research Center in Buffalo. As more is learned about Eastern earthquakes, he said, it should become ”possible to talk about decision-making.” But for now, he said, ”I think it’s premature for us to consider that question.”

Why the war in Ukraine could reshape the European nuclear horns: Daniel

Topol-M missile system TELVitaly V. KuzminCC BY-SA

Why the war in Ukraine could reshape the European nuclear order

Another Russian attack on Ukraine would jeopardise talks between Washington and Moscow on strategic stability and a follow-on agreement to New START

3 February 2022

Ukraine finds itself at the centre of a nuclear crisis – again. After leading on nuclear disarmament in the 1990s and standing up to the Kremlin’s nuclear threats in 2014, the country faces an unprecedented Russian troop build-up along its borders. With tensions rising, Ukraine’s fate could change the European nuclear order.

During the cold war, units located across the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic commanded intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers equipped with around 1,800 nuclear warheads – one-third of the Soviet arsenal. When Ukraine declared its independence from the Soviet Union on 24 August 1991, it ended up with the world’s third-largest stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Ukraine decided to relinquish these weapons – and with good reason. Facing a severe economic crisis and international isolation, the country signed the 1994 Budapest Memorandum to transfer the warheads to Russia, where they would be dismantled, in exchange for security assurances from Washington, London, and Moscow, as well as financial aid and a promise of economic and political integration with the Western-dominated international order.

At times, commentators and Ukrainian politicians have claimed that, if Ukraine kept these weapons, it would be safe from Russian aggression: Moscow would have been deterred by the prospect of nuclear retaliation. With plenty of time and effort, and while risking sanctions and foreign intervention to force denuclearisation, Ukraine might have made use of some of the warheads. But an operational nuclear deterrent would still have remained a long way away. Instead, Ukraine’s decision to disarm contributed to large reductions in nuclear stockpiles in Europe.

Of course, the Budapest Memorandum did not stop Russia from attacking Ukraine in 2014, annexing Crimea, or supporting insurgents in the Ukrainian region of Donbas. At various points in this campaign, Russian media figures and political leaders raised the spectre of nuclear war. During the referendum in Crimea in March 2014, Dmitry Kiselyov – a notoriously provocative presenter on state TV – implored his audience to take Russia seriously as “the only country in the world capable of turning the USA into radioactive dust”. He made the statement against a studio backdrop depicting a mushroom cloud. In a documentary released in 2015, President Vladimir Putin recounted his decision to seize Crimea and revealed that he had considered putting Russia’s nuclear forces on alert: “we were ready to do it … [although] I don’t think this was actually anyone’s wish – to turn it into a world conflict.”

In March and May 2014, Russia’s nuclear forces conducted major exercises involving various nuclear and nuclear-capable weapon systems. Although the exercises had been planned before the invasion of Ukraine, they were accompanied by unusual fanfare, including prominent appearances by Putin. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed the finer points of Russian nuclear doctrine, hinting that Russia would use nuclear weapons if Ukraine attempted to retake Crimea.

Even without accidental escalation, a Russian offensive would jeopardise talks between Washington and Moscow on strategic stability and a follow-on agreement to New START.

In response, members of NATO deployed conventional ‘tripwire’ forces to the Baltic states and Poland, while enhancing their readiness and capabilities. Although the alliance has refused to enter a nuclear arms race with Russia, the Kremlin’s actions in Ukraine have frayed the European nuclear order. Various arms control agreements, including the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty, have collapsed since 2014 due to growing distrust and treaty violations by Russia.

Yet, until recently, Europeans could almost fool themselves that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a serious problem but one that had been contained. Crimea was lost – as the chief of Germany’s navy pointed out, shortly before he was fired for siding with Putin on this and other matters – and the ongoing war in Donbas was a low-intensity conflict that most Europeans need not worry about too much.

If Ukraine comes under attack from the Russian forces that have assembled to the north, east, and south of its borders (including in Belarus and the Black Sea), Europe could be confronted with the biggest war it has seen since 1945. To be sure, in 2014, Russia deployed some conventional ground forces in Donbas after its initial tactics failed. But the current build-up indicates preparations for large and complex combined-arms operationsinvolving land, sea, and air forces, stand-off missile strikes, and cyber-attacks. These operations would likely aim to coerce Ukraine into abandoning its Western aspirations, and the West into giving up on the European security order as enshrined in the Helsinki Final Act and other foundational documents – documents that generations of Soviet and Russian diplomats negotiated and agreed to.

These operations would be accompanied by extensive nuclear signalling to underline Russia’s resolve and deter NATO from intervening – not that NATO states have in any way suggested that they would deploy combat troops to Ukraine. Nevertheless, talk of nuclear war is on the rise again in Russia’s state media – “who says that a nuclear war couldn’t be won?”, as one Russian journalist put it – and Russian officials are fuelling this speculation. Russia’s next annual nuclear exercises will take place in early 2022 – possibly coinciding, once again, with an attack on Ukraine. Belarus may amend its constitution to allow Russian nuclear forces to be stationed on its territory – the Russian military has already deployed nuclear-capable (but not nuclear-armed) Iskander-M missile units to the country for joint exercises.

This would not be a nuclear war, but a war with an undeniable nuclear dimension. Since 2014, Russia and NATO have lost some of the mechanisms they used to avoid serious misunderstandings on nuclear issues. And large military manoeuvres depend on the kind of complex systems that are inherently prone to accidents. Russian forces could inadvertently strike NATO’s surveillance assets in the region, while the sides’ ships could collide in the Black Sea. Even without accidental escalation, a Russian offensive would jeopardise talks between Washington and Moscow on strategic stability and a follow-on agreement to New START – which is the only strategic arms control treaty they still adhere to, and which will expire in 2026. All this would raise serious questions for NATO and the European Union about force postures, conventional defence, and nuclear deterrence.

For the new coalition in Berlin, the controversy around the NATO goal of spending 2 per cent of GDP on defence would pale in comparison to calls from its allies to reinforce the eastern flank with substantial combat forces. Germany is the EU member state most capable of inflicting economic pain on Russia. And, unlike many other European countries, it also has the resources to make meaningful contributions to the balance of military forces in Europe, which is especially important at a time when Washington is increasingly turning its attention towards China.

If Putin abandons his maximalist demands for a wholesale revision of the European security order and settles for a revised arms control agenda, Europe could emerge from the crisis with a more stable and predictable nuclear order. Indeed, in its written responses to Russia’s demands, the United States coordinated with its NATO allies to proposemeasures designed to reduce the risks and enhance the transparency of military activities and theatre nuclear forces. But, as Russia’s troop build-up appears to enter its final stages, it seems increasingly unlikely that Putin will settle for less.

Israeli Soldiers Open Fire At Shepherds And Fishermen Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israeli Soldiers Open Fire At Shepherds And Fishermen In Gaza

Israeli soldiers fired, on Sunday morning, several rounds of live ammunition at Palestinian shepherds and fishermen in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Media sources said the soldiers, stationed across the perimeter fence east of the al-Qarara town, east of Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, fired many live rounds at Palestinian farmers.

They added that the farmers were working on their lands close to the fence when the soldiers fired the live rounds to force them away.

In addition, Israeli navy ships fired live rounds at Palestinian fishing boats in the Sudaniyya Sea area, northwest of Gaza.

The attacks are part of frequent Israeli violations against the Palestinians, especially the fishermen, farmers, shepherds, and workers in the besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip, and resulted in dozens of casualties, including fatalities, in addition to severe property damage and the confiscation of many boats after abducting the fishermen.

In March of last year, 2021, the Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza said Israeli mines were responsible for an explosion that led to the death of three fishermen.

Biden Concedes sanctions relief in attempt to salvage Iran nuclear deal

Biden restores sanctions relief in attempt to salvage Iran nuclear deal

The Biden administration restored a sanctions waiver for Iran’s nuclear program Friday, but the Iranian foreign minister says it won’t be enough to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal, The Washington Post reported.

The Trump administration withdrew from former President Barack Obama’s 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018.

A senior State Department official said the Biden administration’s decision to restore sanctions relief “is not a concession to Iran” or a “signal that we are about to reach an understanding” but that it will “enable some of our international partners to have more detailed technical discussions to enable cooperation that we view as being in our non-proliferation interests,” CNN reported.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was less optimistic. “Lifting some sanctions in a real and objective manner could be interpreted as the good will that Americans talk about,” he said Saturday but added that the Biden administration’s waiver is “not sufficient.”

Ongoing talks in Vienna temporarily adjourned Friday.

The Week contributor David Faris has argued that the negotiations are “almost certainly doomed” and that when they “inevitably collapse, they will entomb decades of delusion and leave the mangled edifice of American foreign policy exposed.” Read more at The Week.

‘Damaging’ Obama-Biden deal is on the way, Bennett warns

 Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at Sunday's cabinet meeting February 6, 2022. (photo credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)

‘Damaging’ Iran deal is on the way, Bennett warns

“Whoever thinks an agreement will increase stability is wrong,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said.

The Iran nuclear deal that world powers are negotiating in Vienna will make it harder to stave off a nuclear Iran, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett warned at the opening of Sunday’s cabinet meeting.

“Foremost among the threats to the State of Israel is Iran,” Bennett said. “We, as the cabinet, are responsible for taking on the Iranian nuclear [threat], and are closely following what is happening in the talks in Vienna.”

Bennett said that “the agreement and what appears to be its conditions will damage the ability to take on the nuclear program.

“Whoever thinks an agreement will increase stability is wrong,” he added. “It will temporarily delay enrichment, but all of us in the region will pay a heavy, disproportionate price for it.”

Bennett pointed out that, in recent weeks, Iran has been upping its aggression in the region, at the same time as it negotiated in Vienna.

 Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stands before a map of the region in his office. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett stands before a map of the region in his office. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI)

Israel is working to strengthen itself militarily for the coming decades, the prime minister said.

“Israel will maintain freedom of action in any situation, with or without an agreement,” he stated.

World powers have been negotiating on-and-off with Iran for the past 10 months for the Islamic Republic and the US to return to compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, which restricted Iran’s uranium enrichment – but not its ballistic missile program or funding of proxy militias – until 2030, along with the gradual lifting of sanctions. The US left the deal and placed heavy sanctions on Iran in 2018, due to its malign actions in the region and evidence, found in an archive smuggled out by the Mossad, that its nuclear program was a weapons program, contrary to Tehran’s denials.

Bennett’s remarks came as Israeli officials are concerned that the renewed deal with Iran will maintain the regime’s time to nuclear breakout at less than six months. One of the flagship goals of the JCPOA in 2015 was to keep Iran a year away from nuclear breakout.

US Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley admitted in an interview with MSNBC over the weekend that the breakout time in a new deal would be shorter than the original JCPOA.

“Because of the advances that they’ve made over the years since we withdrew from the deal…it’s going to be hard to recapture the full non-proliferation benefits, the full breakout timeline,” Malley said. “That’s obviously one of the many catastrophic consequences of the decision to leave the deal.”

Iran’s current breakout time, without any deal, is weeks away, Malley argued, and a deal would extend that timeline.

“We have differences with Israel, but we are working hand in glove with them to make sure our common interests are defined,” Malley stated.

Israeli officials are also concerned about the Biden administration waiving sanctions for other countries to provide enriched uranium for the Tehran research reactor, convert its Arak heavy water research reactor and send spent and scrapped reactor fuel abroad.

The State Department said that these measures will allow “disposition of stockpiles and other activities of nonproliferation value,” and argued that the waivers are not a concession to Iran.

The Antichrist Decides Who Will Be Iraq’s Next President

Iraq’s Sadr bloc to boycott parliament session to elect president

Iraq’s largest bloc in parliament has announced that it will not attend Monday’s session to elect the president, making a vote unlikely.

The largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament, led by Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr, has announced a boycott of a session called next week to elect the country’s president.

The 73-member bloc’s parliamentary chief, Hassan al Adhari, told a news conference on Saturday they will not attend Monday’s session in the 329-seat house, making a vote unlikely although technically a quorum could be reached.

“We decided to freeze negotiations with political blocs regarding the formation of the next government until further notice,” al Adhari said.

“The Sadr’s bloc members will not attend the parliamentary session to elect the president of the republic except for first deputy speaker of parliament, Hakim al Zamili,” al Adhari stated, without giving further details.

The decision to boycott Monday’s session comes amid deep differences between Shia blocs over the formation of the new Iraqi government.

‘Not a consensus candidate’

Incumbent President Barham Salih, of the PUK, and the candidate of the KDP, Hoshyar Zebari, are the frontrunners for the post.

The latter’s candidacy has stirred controversy due to years-old corruption accusations against him in court that led to his 2016 dismissal from the post of finance minister.

After having served for a decade as foreign minister followed by two years as finance minister, parliament fired Zebari in September 2016, notably over charges that $1.8 million of public funds were diverted to pay for airline tickets for his personal security detail.

Zebari has always denied any corruption accusations.

The Sadrist MP said Zebari was “not a consensus (candidate)”.

Al Sadr’s Sairoon alliance emerged the biggest winner in the October 10 elections, with 73 seats in the 329-member parliament, followed by Mohammed al Halbousi’s Taqaddum (progress) bloc with 37 seats.

The only thing worse than another Obama deal with Iran might be no deal

Opinion: The only thing worse than a deal with Iran might be no deal

Announced in mid-July 2015, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal — made sense not as a permanent solution to the Islamic republic’s drive for atomic weaponry but as an effort to buy time for one. The Obama administration, in partnership with France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia, agreed Iran would curtail uranium enrichment until 2031 in return for economic sanctions relief — worth tens of billions of dollars to its struggling economy. Given what might happen otherwise — an Israeli preemptive strike on Iran, with wider war to follow — the bargain was, as we noted at the time, “complex and costly” but “preferable, in the short term, to the likely alternative.”

Today, President Biden is negotiating a resumed deal with Iran that would undoubtedly call for a similar, difficult, risk-benefit analysis. That evaluation begins by acknowledging that the Biden administration finds itself in such a position because in 2018 his predecessor, Donald Trump, unilaterally pulled the United States out of the JCPOA, branding it “a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made.” Though Iran responded with restraint at first, it has since stepped up uranium enrichment, to the point where it could now have enough weapons-grade material for one or more bombs within weeks — rather than the one-year “breakout time” the JCPOA achieved. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s approach — stepped-up sanctions — damaged the Iranian economy but failed to curb the regime’s nuclear development or its support for terrorist proxies throughout the Middle East.

At first, Mr. Biden’s promise to restore the JCPOA seemed unlikely to bear fruit, given Iran’s position — made all too credible by Mr. Trump’s behavior — that there was no point talking to a country that would not stick to its agreements. However, recent reports from Vienna, where U.S. and Iranian negotiators are dealing through intermediaries, suggest that Tehran might still agree to a modified freeze of its program in return for relief from Mr. Trump’s sanctions. The deal would end in 2031, as the JCPOA did, with Iran possibly much closer to breakout than it would have been if the United States had not pulled out, triggering Iranian noncompliance.

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In other words, if a deal with Iran does get done, the United States could be buying less time than it did in 2015, at a higher price. Iran’s neighbors, not only Israel but also Saudi Arabia, would remain nervous. It would not be the “longer and stronger” deal, encompassing Iranian missile development as well, that the Biden team once called for. Whether that is nevertheless acceptable depends on the details, especially how much latitude Iran guarantees international inspectors, including with respect to past nuclear activity, which it has still not satisfactorily explained to the International Atomic Energy Agency. And it depends on the follow-through Mr. Biden provides in terms of deterring — and punishing — Iranian aggression throughout the region.

As in 2015, the United States should not let the best be the enemy of the good, provided its negotiators really have done as much good as they possibly could.