According to The New York Times, American officials have warned Israel that repeated attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities are counterproductive; meanwhile, the Biden administration has twiddled its thumbs as Iran advances closer to the nuclear threshold. Reports now indicate Iran could produce enough fissile fuel in a month to build a weapon, and the Iranians have repeatedly said they will not discuss a stronger agreement that as a candidate, President Joe Biden said he would negotiate. Nevertheless, he has not been dissuaded from appeasing the mullahs in the hope they will return to the old deal they never complied with.
Unfortunately, former President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign failed (maybe four more years would have made a difference, but that was unlikely given the lack of international cooperation). Now, following precedents set by presidents Obama and Trump, Biden is allowing Iran and its proxies to attack U.S. forces and allies with impunity.
Iran has no incentive to change its policies given the display of U.S. weakness highlighted by the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan that emboldened jihadis everywhere (and the mullahs in Iran) by demonstrating their commitment to their faith is stronger than America’s loyalty to its allies.
Consider a few other responses to Iranian aggression:
- Biden withdrew support for Saudi Arabia’s attempt to stop Iranian-backed Houthi forces from overrunning the country. Subsequently, the Houthis stormed the U.S. embassy in Yemen and are now threatening a strategic, oil-rich city near the Saudi border.
- Biden wants to transfer weapons to the Lebanese army despite Israeli warnings that they will end up in the hands of Hezbollah and strengthen Iran’s control over Lebanon.
- Biden has not responded to numerous provocations at sea, including Iranian forces nearing U.S. naval vessels, seizing allies’ ships and attacking Israeli-owned vessels.
- Biden has allowed Iranian-backed attacks on U.S. bases in Syria and Iraq to go unpunished.
The only good news is that Biden has not eased sanctions. In addition to maintaining Trump’s sanctions, he did impose a few others, notably on individuals and companies involved in the production of drones (ironic given his criticism of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign and its failure), which was apparently his idea of a tough response to the Iranian attack on our base in Syria. Still, as talks resume in Vienna, the Iranians made clear they will not return to the old deal and will not do anything without sanctions relief. Fears remain that Biden so desperately wants an agreement that he will relent.
These fears were enhanced by reports of a supposed interim deal floated by Robert Malley, one of the people who helped put the world in the dangerous position it is now in by promoting the original Iran deal. Under this crazy idea, the United States would release billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets, which, like the payoff to get the original deal, will give Iran more funds for its nefarious activities. In exchange, Iran would only be expected to suspend, not reverse, the enrichment activities that have brought it closer to the purity needed for a bomb. Not surprisingly, Israel opposed this idea.
While the focus is rightly on the Biden administration, don’t forget that a part of the Obama scam to sell the deal was the promise that there would be “snapback” sanctions if Iran violated the agreement. The European signatories have refused to reimpose sanctions, have resisted even a meaningless censure of Iran’s violations and consistently sought ways around U.S. sanctions. The other parties to the deal, Russia and China, never stopped supporting Iran.
Given the fecklessness of our allies, it is up to Biden to take action to stop Iran from building a bomb, but does anyone believe he is willing to use the military force necessary (which is not necessarily another “Operation Desert Storm” as fearmongers insist)? He ambiguously talks about “other options” if negotiations fail; however, the Iranians believe these threats are as empty as Obama’s “all options are on the table” rhetoric, especially after pulling our troops and equipment from the Middle East and repeatedly stating his priority is Asia.
Finger-wagging is not a foreign policy, and it doesn’t scare Iran whose armed forces spokesman said, “We will not back off from the annihilation of Israel, even one millimeter. We want to destroy Zionism in the world.”
Rather than adopt former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s confrontational approach, Naftali Bennett has been more diplomatic to avoid antagonizing the president. He has left no doubt, however, that Israel will defend its interests if the United States does not negotiate an agreement that makes it impossible for Iran to build a bomb, develop ballistic missiles, sponsor global terror and threaten its neighbors.
For now, the administration seems determined to engage in sabotage. No, not sabotage of the Iranian nuclear program but of Israeli actions to stop Iran from getting a bomb. Biden officials have been reportedly leaking information to The New York Times (the go-to media source to plant anti-Israel stories) about Israeli operations. One reason may be the desire to show the Iranians they are interested in negotiating in good faith and, like in 2015, won’t allow Israel to spoil the appeasement party.
There is perhaps a more nefarious reason, which I warned about when Biden named his foreign-policy team. Some of the leaks reflect a return to the discredited thinking of the Arabists. The best example was the leak to the Times asserting that the Iranian-instigated drone strike on the U.S. base in Syria on Oct. 20 was retaliation for Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria. The idea that Israeli actions endanger American soldiers in the region is a staple of Arabist efforts to undermine the U.S.-Israel relationship.
I was reminded of 2010 when Obama’s defense department put out a report spuriously claiming troops were in harm’s way because of American support for Israel. It also said, “Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples,” a view that was not only false but helps explain why it took sidelining the Arabists to reach the Abraham Accords.
Rather than cause harm, it was Israeli intelligence—once again proving Israel’s strategic value—that saved the lives of American soldiers at the Syrian base by tipping off the United States about the impending attack in time to evacuate the base.
Interestingly, the Times said the Pentagon would not confirm Iran’s role in that attack “partly to avoid upending talks to restart the nuclear deal with Tehran.” A direct attack on the United States was not sufficiently serious to merit acknowledgment, let alone a response beyond announcing sanctions against Iranians affiliated with the drone program.
Was this supposed to demonstrate that Biden is going to stand up for American interests in negotiations?
Critics of taking military action against Iran suggest that the United States is in no danger even if Iran gets nuclear weapons. We’re far away; they won’t attack us. Why should we care if a bunch of Arab sheikdoms that are exacerbating climate change with their fossil fuels are in danger? And the Jews? All they do is cause us headaches. Come to think of it, why should we care about Ukraine, Taiwan or anywhere else? Is there anything worth fighting for anymore?
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including “The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews” and “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”