How the Biden Administration Is Empowering Iran

March 23 2022

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.

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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

 

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism