The U.S. Must Cease Letting Companies That Cooperate with the Iranian Nuclear Program Off the Hook

April 2 2020

When the Trump administration withdrew from its 2015 agreement with Tehran, it did not immediately resume the entire battery of sanctions that the agreement had suspended. Instead, it issued a number of specific, temporary waivers. This week the State Department renewed for another 60 days one of these waivers, which blocks sanctions on the European, Russian, and Chinese corporations that operate the Islamic Republic’s supposedly civilian nuclear facilities. Jonathan Tobin criticizes this decision, apparently taken at the behest of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin:

Mnuchin is apparently more interested in good relations with the international community than in using American economic power to roll back the alarming gains Iran has made in the Middle East—gains made as a result of Barack Obama’s misguided attempt to bring about a rapprochement with Tehran.

This is a huge mistake. Richard Goldberg, [an expert on Iran sanctions], has argued that we could retain the waiver if the Europeans, Russians, and Chinese promised to “snap back” sanctions in the event that Iran violated the deal. Indeed, under the pact, these countries have pledged to hold Iran accountable. But none of them have any intention of doing so. What they want is to preserve the nuclear deal at all costs; they want to roll back President Trump’s sanctions policy, which has made it harder for the Iranians to continue funding terror.

The timing for this decision is also particularly tragic because it comes just after a public acknowledgement that Robert Levinson, a retired American intelligence operative kidnapped by Iran in 2007, died while in Iranian custody. Levinson’s disappearance is still officially unsolved—Iran has not produced his body. But Levinson’s family has recently said that the Trump administration told them that newly discovered intelligence—reportedly including intercepted Iranian communications—show that Levinson died while in Iranian hands sometime in the past several years.

Sadly, along with other U.S. concessions made during the Iran-deal negotiations, then-President Obama and then-Secretary of State John Kerry decided they would not hold up the agreement by insisting that Iran free Levinson or produce his body. The recent history of American dealings with Iran has been dominated by that kind of callous expediency. . . . Strengthening Iran by once again loosening sanctions—as Mnuchin apparently wants—out of misplaced sympathy or a desire to accommodate the Europeans or Russians won’t help anyone but the [ayatollahs].

Read more at National Review

More about: Barack Obama, Iran nuclear program, Iran sanctions, John Kerry, U.S. Foreign policy


Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship