Ever since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in 2021, and even more so since Russia launched its failed attack on Ukraine in February, he has repeatedly said that he would like to restore the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
Biden has been relentlessly pursuing this goal because, as far as he is concerned, an agreement would free him up to deal with the four key challenges facing his country. He believes these four challenges are what will ultimately decide his political fate and his party’s electoral prospects, at least in the near future.
The first challenge is the strategic and economic threat from China, which has recently become even more acute due to Beijing’s rhetoric over Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. The second challenge is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The third is the need to move Biden’s social and environmental agenda through Congress.
The fourth and most pressing challenge is, of course, the ongoing war in Ukraine and the crisis in relations with Russia, which created a new reality on the world stage by upending the post-Cold War international order.
It is now clear that the Russia-Ukraine war will drag on for some time and its impact on the United States and global economy will continue for the foreseeable future, especially on the energy market.
Against this backdrop, America has adopted a policy of ever-escalating sanctions against Russia and increasing support for Ukraine, putting the Iran issue on the back burner. Thus, Biden hopes that a deal with the ayatollahs will free him from a persistent irritation in the Middle East and allow him to present the American people with a foreign-policy achievement on the eve of the midterm elections. Moreover, even if the deal’s overall benefits don’t materialize overnight, it will make a dent in energy prices and help reduce inflation in the United States.
The fact that the United States and the European Union are hell-bent on making a deal with Iran does not make its terrible flaws go away. Nor does it make up for its lack of reciprocity when it comes to the concessions being made by the parties involved. The main Iranian “concession” is its willingness to allow the United States to keep Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations. This is no real sacrifice. Despite the listing, the IRGC will be able to do business with foreign entities through a host of workarounds.
The other elements of the deal underscore the fact that the international community has sold out to Iran. For example, the emerging deal will effectively prevent nuclear inspectors from engaging in any long-term or effective scrutiny of suspicious Iranian activity at four undeclared sites. The West’s capitulation is also evident in its willingness to make various guarantees to ensure Iran won’t be adversely affected should America withdraw from the deal in the future.
Moreover, even if the deal requires Iran to freeze its sophisticated enrichment activity, there are still unanswered questions: Will the advanced centrifuges used in the process be stored under the supervision of the powerless International Atomic Energy Commission? Will the enrichment technology be dismantled and destroyed, or will the West follow the example of Syria’s supposed destruction of its chemical weapons under Russian supervision?
The new Iran deal as it stands is plagued by appeasement, delusion and one-sided concessions that Biden has been keen on making with his eyes wide open. The question is what kind of strategy Israel has to adopt to face this dangerous reality.
Professor Abraham Ben-Zvi is an expert in American-Israeli relations.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.