OpinionMiddle East

Obama and Biden paved the way to a nuclear-armed Iran

The Biden administration, sadly, seems to have been the enabling factor in Iran's continued regional aggression and nuclear advancement.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden shake hands in the Oval Office following a phone call with House Speaker John Boehner securing a bipartisan deal to reduce the nation's deficit and avoid default, July 31, 2011. Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden shake hands in the Oval Office following a phone call with House Speaker John Boehner securing a bipartisan deal to reduce the nation's deficit and avoid default, July 31, 2011. Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.
Majid Rafizadeh
Majid Rafizadeh

Iran is on the brink of acquiring nuclear weapons. Responsibility for this development lies squarely on the shoulders of the Obama and Biden administrations. Through a series of misinformed and misguided policies, they have paved the way for Iran to realize its nuclear ambitions.

Instead of putting a stop to Iran’s nuclear program, America’s “diplomatic efforts” have resulted in a series of concessions that have only empowered the Iranian regime. The lack of stringent enforcement and verification measures, and especially the lifting of secondary sanctions—by which any country that does business with Iran is prohibited from doing business with America—have allowed Iran to accelerate its nuclear activities “under the radar.” The leniency and strategic missteps of both the Obama and Biden administrations have thus critically undermined global non-proliferation efforts, bringing the world to a situation in which Iran stands about to become a nuclear-armed state.

The concept of granting concessions to Iran, which originated with the Obama administration, culminated in what would become known as the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), often referred to as the “Iran nuclear deal.” The deal marked a significant shift in international relations with Iran. On the very first day of its implementation, the international community saw the removal of crippling U.N. Security Council sanctions on Tehran. These sanctions, which had taken decades to establish, represented a robust international effort to contain Iran’s nuclear plans.

Iran’s continued development of ballistic missile technology and its persistent test firings of missiles, both in clear violation of U.N. resolutions, were largely overlooked. In addition, the growing bellicosity of Iran’s huge militia, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as well as the nuclear program itself, were apparently never addressed with the seriousness they warranted—thereby allowing Iran to expand its military capabilities and regional aggression unchecked.

Meanwhile, reports have surfaced, disclosed by whistleblowers to senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson, that the Obama-Biden State Department went so far as to “actively interfere” with the efforts of the FBI to arrest certain individuals who were in the United States illegally and suspected of supporting Iran’s nuclear-related financial endeavors. The decision to intervene and prevent these arrests raises serious questions about the administration’s priorities and commitment to national security. This revelation adds another layer of complexity to the narrative surrounding the administration’s approach to Iran, suggesting an eagerness to overlook potential threats.

The newfound legitimacy Obama granted to Iran, coupled with his lifting of sanctions, generated a flood of billions of dollars for the IRGC, as well as for various other militias and terrorist groups supported by the regime. The windfall enabled Tehran to significantly bolster its military and paramilitary operations and extend its influence across the Middle East. The Iranian regime strategically allocated these funds to support and expand its own proxy presence throughout the region, including, among other spots, SyriaIraqLebanonYemenSudanSomaliaMaliBurkina Faso and the Gaza Strip.

In Syria, Iran’s backing has been pivotal in bolstering the Assad regime by providing military and logistical support, which helped turn the civil war in Assad’s favor. Similarly, in Yemen, Iran’s financial and military aid to the Houthi rebels fueled an ongoing conflict that has had devastating humanitarian consequences and has further destabilized the region. In Lebanon, Iran’s support for Hezbollah strengthened the group’s military capabilities and political clout and made Lebanon into a solid Iranian proxy. Iran’s expansion campaign, underpinned by the substantial revenue boost from sanctions lifted by the Biden administration, proved to be immensely successful, significantly intensifying Iran’s grip across the Middle East.

When the Trump administration came to office, the fortunes of Iran shifted dramatically. The Trump administration implemented a “maximum pressure” policy aimed at curtailing Iran’s economic capabilities by particularly focusing on reducing the country’s oil exports, and, most importantly, establishing “secondary sanctions” that banned any country doing business with Iran from doing business with the United States. This highly effective policy significantly slashed Iran’s oil revenues, a major source of funding for the regime. The Trump administration’s re-imposition and expansion of sanctions exerted immense economic pressure on the Iranian government and forced Iranian leaders to make difficult financial decisions, such as cutting back on funding to their regional allies, as well as to Iran’s militias and terror groups.

As the Islamic regime’s proxies and aligned groups found themselves with fewer resources to sustain their activities, the reduction in financial support effectively hobbled Iran’s operational capabilities. The “maximum pressure” campaign, therefore, not only weakened Iran’s domestic economy but also curtailed its ability to project power and influence through its network of regional proxies.

When President Joe Biden assumed office, Iran experienced a renewed sense of optimism and relief. The Biden administration swiftly took steps that were seen as favorable to Tehran. One of the new administration’s first actions was to remove Yemen’s Houthi rebels from the U.S. List of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, a move that was perceived as a significant concession. The Houthis reciprocated the goodwill gesture by launching missiles and attack drones on its neighbors in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The Biden administration also tried to revive the JCPOA, which had guaranteed Iran nuclear weapons in just a few years and was therefore abandoned by the Trump administration.

As these financial and diplomatic overtures took shape, Iran’s oil exports began to climb, reaching new heights estimated at $100 billion. This resurgence in oil revenue once again empowered Iran to finance its hegemonic regional ambitions and support its network of militias, proxies and allied groups.

Worse, reports indicate that the Biden administration has not only overlooked Iran’s advances with regard to its nuclear program, but is also actively discouraging the European Union from rebuking Iran for its defiance and progress in nuclear development. The Biden administration’s passive approach of trying to use what might look like “protection money” to try to bribe Iran into compliance has simply backfired. Iran took the billions and, unsurprisingly, appears to have fungibly used them to finance several wars in the region—Hamas’s and Hezbollah’s war against Israel, the Houthis’ war against Israel and the United States—as well as Iran’s nuclear program and April 13 attack on Israel.

The Biden administration, sadly, seems to have been the enabling factor in Iran’s continued regional aggression and nuclear advancement. The administration’s series of policies favorable to Iran significantly strengthened the regime, to the point where Iran and its proxies are now actively engaged in a comprehensive war against Israel and the Sunni Arab Gulf States. Moreover, since October, Iran has lauched more than 150 attacks on U.S. troops in the region.

Drawing from historical precedent, it is easy to understand the efficacy of measures such as imposing stringent sanctions, and especially secondary sanctions, targeting Iran’s oil revenues, and putting on the table the military option to address Iran’s nuclear program. These strategic actions are now more crucial than ever in ensuring regional stability, curbing Iran’s ambitions and safeguarding global security interests.

Originally published by the Gatestone Institute.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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