How the Biden Administration Is Empowering Iran

As discussions of a nuclear agreement with Iran continue, U.S. relations with its Middle Eastern allies may be fraying. Michael Doran assesses Israeli leaders’ recent protests against Biden’s maneuvering; a misbegotten attempt by the White House to shore up support in Saudi Arabia; and the significance of Iran’s recent hostage release—an attempt to pave the way toward a deal. He concludes that “any expectations that the agreement will moderate the regime are a pipe dream.”

As the parties to the Iranian nuclear deal iron out its final details, unease in Jerusalem grows. Barak Ravid of Axios reported last week that, in response to an Iranian demand, President Biden was considering reversing President Trump’s designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization. The news elicited a storm of protests from Israel, including from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. “Unfortunately,” Bennett wrote in a statement released on his Telegram channel, “we see the determination [of the Americans] to sign the nuclear deal with Iran at almost any cost, including saying of the world’s largest terrorist organization that it is not a terrorist organization. But this cost is too high.”

Does this statement mark a turning point in relations between the Bennett government and the Biden administration? In general, this Israeli government has bent over backwards to avoid publicly attacking Biden’s Iran policy. In private, it has made its feelings known, albeit diplomatically. For example, last December, when Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz came to Washington, he proposed an alternative policy. “What I told them,” Gantz explained to a group of Israeli journalists, “was that Iran has bad cards [to play] at the moment, and the economic situation there is difficult. Therefore, there is room for international pressure—political, economic, and also military—so that Iran can stop its fantasies about the nuclear program.”

Applying pressure across all fronts simultaneously to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear program—sound familiar? It should. Under the name “maximum pressure” President Donald Trump adopted precisely that policy. But in Israel today “maximum pressure” is the approach that dare not speak its name, because Team Biden will take offense.

Read more at Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East

More about: Donald Trump, Iran nuclear program, Joseph Biden, Naftali Bennett, US-Israel relations, Yair Lapid


What Is the Biden Administration Thinking?

In the aftermath of the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Friday, John Podhoretz observes some “clarifying moments.” The third strikes me as the most important:

Clarifying Moment #3 came with the news that the Biden administration is still calling for negotiations leading to a ceasefire after, by my count, the seventh rejection of the same by Hamas since Bibi Netanyahu’s secret offer a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Blinken, a man who cannot say no, including when someone suggests it would be smart for him to play high-school guitar while Ukraine burns, will be back in the region for the eighth time to urge Hamas to accept the deal. Why is this clarifying? Because it now suggests, here and for all time, that the Biden team is stupid.

Supposedly the carrot the [White House] is dangling in the region is a tripartite security deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Which would, of course, be a good thing. But like the stupid people they are now proving to be, they seem not to understand the very thing that led the Saudis to view Israel as a potential ally more than a decade ago: the idea that Israel means business and does what it must to survive and built itself a tech sector the Saudis want to learn from. Allowing Hamas to survive, which is implicitly part of the big American deal, will not lead to normalization. The Saudis do not want an Iranian vassal state in Palestine. Their entire foreign-policy purpose is to counter Iran. I know that. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that. Even Tony Blinken’s guitar is gently weeping at his dangling a carrot to Israel and Saudi Arabia that neither wants, needs, nor will accept.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Antony Blinken, Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship