The Biden administration is on the verge of closing its long-sought for nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Europeans distributed a “final draft” of an agreement to the Americans and the Iranians last week. While the text was billed as a “take it or leave it” offer, neither the Europeans nor the Americans walked away after Iran returned with reservations. Instead, President Joe Biden and his advisers are avidly looking into Iran’s positions and are reportedly trying to incorporate them into the agreement, which will likely be concluded quickly, if only the Iranians will agree.
Back in 2015, news that the Obama-Biden administration was closing in on a final draft of what became its nuclear deal with Iran provoked a mass public outcry. The majority of Americans opposed the deal. Many key Democrats opposed it. The entire Republican Party opposed it. News of the deal was greeted by mass protests in Washington, New York and countrywide.
Today, the opposite is the case. News of Biden’s deal is greeted with yawns and apathy.
The difference is doubly striking because since 2015, the warnings the deal’s opponents sounded have all been borne out by events. Just as the opponents warned, Iran began cheating on the deal the moment it was concluded: Iran stockpiled uranium beyond what was permitted and refused to come clean to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency on its previous nuclear work.
Even worse, Iran exploited the deal’s loopholes—first and foremost its non-limitation of research and development work. While ostensibly abiding by the agreement, Iran developed advanced centrifuges capable of enriching uranium 10 times faster and to much higher levels of purity than the centrifuges it fielded in 2015. Although administration officials and their allies insist that Iran only began to use the advanced centrifuges in response to then President Donald Trump’s abandonment of the nuclear deal in 2018, in truth, Iran’s activities were dictated by its operational timeline. Iran completed development of the centrifuges in late 2020, and immediately put them to use.
As the deal’s opponents had warned, Iran used the tens of billions of dollars it received from sanctions relief in 2015 and 2016 to massively expand its funding of terror proxies. The Iranian people got no dividend from the deal. Their economic privation and suffering only grew. But the Iranian proxy Houthis attacked Saudi oil installations with guided missiles and drones. Iranian proxy Hezbollah massively expanded its capabilities as did Iranian proxies Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Iran-backed terrorist groups and militias in Iraq and Syria.
The nuclear deal was supposed to keep Iran a year away from breakout, but last month Teheran announced it had already crossed the nuclear threshold and could develop bombs at will. The nuclear deal Biden is now negotiating won’t push Iran’s nuclear genie back in the bottle. Iran will enter the deal—if it agrees—as a threshold nuclear state. And it will exit the deal as a nuclear power.
Yet, despite the manifest dangers Iran poses, and everything we have learned since 2015, no one is in the streets protesting today. No one is campaigning against Biden’s deal.
The apathy afflicting everyone from moderate Democrats to conservative Republicans, from Jewish American groups to Christian Zionist groups to national security lobbies is particularly stunning because Biden’s nuclear deal is even worse than Obama’s was. Not only does it give nuclear license to Iran, Biden’s agreement ushers in an era of nuclear chaos.
From the end of World War II until Obama concluded the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, particularly to rogue states and actors, had been a top goal of U.S. national security policy. The 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was arguably the crowning achievement of that 70-year policy. The deal gave signatory states access to peaceful nuclear technologies while blocking their path to military nuclear capabilities. In exchange for nuclear power plants, states agreed to open their nuclear installations to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Obama’s 2015 turned the NPT on its head and weakened the IAEA. Rather than require Iran to adhere to the NPT, the 2015 deal rewarded Iran’s illicit behavior. It legitimized Iran’s illegal uranium enrichment and hamstrung IAEA investigations.
Biden’s policy is far worse in two ways. First, it is being undertaken after Iran announced it had crossed the nuclear threshold. In other words, Biden can’t plausibly claim that this is a non-proliferation deal. It is a deal that rewards proliferation—by the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Under Biden’s deal, by 2030, Iran will receive $1 trillion in sanctions relief—enough to transform Iran into a regional economic power as Tehran uses its nuclear arsenal to blackmail its neighbors.
This leads us to the second reason that Biden’s deal is worse than Obama’s. Whereas legitimizing Iran’s nuclear arsenal and rewarding Iran’s illicit nuclear activities with a trillion dollars in sanctions relief ensures regional chaos and war, another U.S. concession is devastating for the world as a whole. According to media reports of the E.U. final draft, Biden has accepted Iran’s demand that the IAEA end its investigations of Iran’s undeclared nuclear installations. In other words, the United States has agreed to stop all residual efforts to enforce the NPT with regard to Iran. By agreeing to this Iranian demand, Biden and his advisers are destroying the remaining vestiges of the NPT and gutting the IAEA.
The implication is stunning. The deal itself destroys the very concept of nuclear non-proliferation. Once Biden and Iran conclude their deal, the prospect of nuclear war will no longer be a distant if ever-present concern. It will become a certainty, as nation after nation rushes to acquire nuclear weapons.
Given the dire and certain consequences of Biden’s nuclear diplomacy, how can we explain the silence of the deal’s opponents?
The answer lies in the way Barack Obama sold his deal in 2015, and the subsequent changes to U.S. politics.
In 2015, Obama was able to sideline and castigate his critics by pitching his nuclear deal with Iran as a component of identity politics. Obama and his advisers maintained that supporters of the deal were standing up for progressive ideals against war-mongering Jews, (otherwise known as “foreign interests” and “deep-pocketed” political donors). The Obama administration’s unprecedented use of anti-Semitic dog whistles to demonize the agreements’ Jewish and non-Jewish opponents went a long way towards dissuading Democrats from standing with the likes of AIPAC against it.
The propaganda campaign was so powerful that leading Democrats who opposed the deal, including then Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Ben Cardin, refused to lobby their colleagues to stand with them against the agreement. By refusing to use their own political power to block an agreement with devastating, foreseen consequences, Schumer, Cardin and their colleagues ensured that it would be approved by the Senate. They also surrendered their power.
In the intervening seven years, the identity politics Obama introduced into national security issues have advanced to the point that Biden doesn’t even have to make the argument. It is understood automatically. The once-split Democrat Party united behind Obama’s deal in 2018 and committed its members to reinstating it after then president Donald Trump abandoned the agreement.
American Jews, who led the fight against the 2015 deal, have been sidelined in the Democratic Party, and have no appetite for further arguments with the party that is not only abandoning them, but empowering lawmakers like Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib who demonize them.
Obama deployed U.S. intelligence agencies against U.S. citizens for the first time during the fight against the Iran deal. As The Wall Street Journal revealed in 2015, the administration unlawfully spied on AIPAC lobbyists and used their personal communications to undermine and demonize their efforts. Given that Republicans are currently the minority in both houses of Congress and therefore have little power to block Biden’s deal, activists no doubt are less enthusiastic about placing themselves in the administration’s sights by actively opposing Biden’s nuclear diplomacy with Tehran.
Last week, a Lebanese Shi’ite Muslim who has expressed his allegiance to Iran jumped onto a stage in New York and attempted to murder author Salman Rushdie. Iran’s revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa—and Islamic judicial ruling—in 1989 calling for Rushdie to be killed for writing his Koran-based satire The Satanic Verses and placed a bounty on his head. Both Iran’s success in recruiting Shi’ite terrorists in the United States and the fact that Tehran’s bounty for Rushdie’s head has ballooned to millions of dollars in the 33 years since Khomeini first called for his execution, are testaments to nature of the threat the Iranian regime poses to the United States and to everyone on earth who values freedom.
As another Muslim apostate who faces a similar Islamist death sentence—Ayaan Hirsi Ali—explained this week, the West’s inability to recognize the permanent nature of Khomeini’s fatwa against Rushdie is linked to its desire to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran.
Hirsi Ali wrote, “The Western response to the fatwa, as to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, was to negotiate. Then, as now, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the regime. The world of the West and the world of Islamism are totally irreconcilable. The sooner we realize that nothing will appease the fanatics of Tehran, the better able we will be to oppose them.”
Unfortunately, appeasement of Iran is now a firm principle of identity politics and progressive dogma. And so, it continues and escalates. According to media reports, one of Iran’s conditions for an agreement is that the United States do nothing in response to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ efforts to assassinate former National Security Advisor John Bolton, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former Iran Envoy Brian Hook and other senior U.S. officials on U.S. territory. And Biden has apparently accepted the demand. The State Department’s statements on the attempted murder of Rushdie went out of their way to avoid acknowledging Iran’s responsibility, even though the assailant was in direct contact with regime officials on social media.
It is hard to see a happy end to this distressing tale. The only way forward at this point is for America’s endangered Middle East allies to join forces to block Iran’s path to nuclear hegemony and to push the Biden Administration off its devastating course.
Caroline Glick is an award-winning columnist and author of “The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.”