Senior U.S. diplomats’ continuing overtures to Iran, seeking to seal an agreement for Tehran’s re-entry to the 2015 nuclear deal, raise new questions about President Joe Biden’s policy in the Middle East.
Israel and its Sunni state allies vehemently oppose the revival of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name for the Iran deal, largely because it would provide Tehran with more than $100 billion in economic sanctions relief in exchange for a promise of temporary restrictions on the clerical regime’s capability to develop nuclear weapons.
Michael Rubin, an Iran expert at the American Enterprise Institute, told JNS, “The point is that, while the JCPOA has no value, simply leaving it is not enough. It’s necessary to reverse the damage the deal has done. This means firing Rob Malley [Biden’s special envoy for Iran] and re-imposing ‘maximum pressure.’
“That Biden refuses to do this and Malley is still sucking up taxpayer dollars to jet-set around Europe and secretly meet with Iranian diplomats in New York shows Biden is no longer calibrating policy to reality. That his administration prefers to do this in the dark is telling, given how often their partisans declare ‘Democracy dies in darkness,’” Rubin said.
Malley recently held meetings with Tehran’s UN ambassador, the London-based Iran International news organization reported on Wednesday.
The U.S. State Department did not deny that Malley met with Ambassador Saeed Iravani in New York “at least three times in the last two months,” according to the report.
The State Department told Iran International, “As we have said, we have the means to deliver messages to Iran when it is in our interest to do so.”
Iranian dissidents, who seek the end of the theocratic regime in Tehran, were outraged when Biden appointed Malley to negotiate with Iran in January 2021.
Wedded to the JCPOA
Malley has long advocated normalizing relations with a number of state sponsors of terrorism. In a 2006 Time magazine piece he wrote, “Today the US does not talk to Iran, Syria, Hamas, the elected Palestinian government or Hezbollah….The result has been a policy with all the appeal of a moral principle and all the effectiveness of a tired harangue.” He is deeply wedded to reviving the JCPOA.
Rubin said, “The problem is that the JCPOA wasn’t just a bad deal, but its negotiators knew it was a bad deal. This is why they didn’t design it to be a Senate-ratified treaty and why [then-U.S. Secretary of State] John Kerry front-loaded the economic windfall Iran received. The logic there was ‘Iran already got paid, so we might as well stay” with the nuclear accord.
“It’s no secret the JCPOA was always a bad deal no matter what the spin of its supporters. It reversed decades of non-proliferation precedent. Inheritors of legacy Soviet nuclear programs like the Ukrainians and Kazakhs had to forfeit their weapons. Libya’s program was completely dismantled. When South Africa gave up theirs, even with Nelson Mandela in control and fully compliant, it took the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] 19 years to give an all-clear,” Rubin continued.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday that “the JCPOA has not been on the agenda as a practical matter for many months now. It’s not our focus. We’re focused on what’s happening in Iran. We’re focused on what Iran is doing in terms of the provision of weapons to Russia to use against innocent people and the entire energy grid in Ukraine. And of course, we’re focused on its other destabilizing activities throughout the region.”
He added, however, the caveat that ”we continue to believe that the most effective way to do that is through diplomacy, and we saw the results and success of diplomacy when it comes to the original JCPOA.”
“The one thing that’s clear is that engaging in diplomacy, including with those who are engaged in outrageous actions, is sometimes necessary to try to advance our interests, and it never takes the word ‘no’ from our vocabulary,” Blinken said.
For many Iranian Americans, however, Biden’s policy is misguided and continues to advance the interests of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Freedom and justice
Manda Zand Ervin, whom President George W. Bush appointed as the U.S. delegate to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Woman in 2008, told JNS, “As an Iranian-American woman who took refuge in the land of freedom and justice, I ask President Joe Biden: How many negotiations do you want to have with Khamenei who has lied and betrayed America time and again, and has joined the enemies of the United States?
“While the administration has been supporting Ukraine, Khamenei is giving drones to his friend [Russian President] Putin, yet President Biden is still talking about negotiations, with Putin as the middleman with Khamenei,” she said.
Zand Ervin, the author of “The Ladies’ Secret Society: History of the Courageous Women of Iran, does not believe Biden is finished with the Iran nuclear deal. Biden “is giving Khamenei time to stop the revolution [the current anti-regime protests] and go back to negotiations,” she said.
She continued that “Democratic Party presidents who are ardent believers in women’s rights and equity have been on the side of a gender apartheid tyranny since [the Islamic Revolution of] 1979. The billions that the US is giving to Khamenei go to our enemies: Hamas, Hezbollah and his terrorist IRGC and others.”
The Obama administrations pumped billions of dollars into the coffers of Iran’s regime as part of the 2015 JCPOA deal. The Trump administration pulled the plug on the JCPOA in 2018, saying it would not stop Iran from building nuclear weapons and allowed Tehran to fund terrorism.
Zand Ervin said, “A free and democratic Iran can be not only a friend of the United States but a reliable business partner through the one million-strong successful Iranian-American community.
“Obama said he made a mistake listening to his advisers and not supporting the uprising of Iranians in 2009. So, why is Biden not taking his advice instead of listening to the same advice from the same people who advised Obama?” she asked.