On American situational ethics

Either we will find ourselves standing on the right side of history ... or we will not.

A group of civilians in Kyiv, Ukraine, gather in a city basement to make Molotov cocktails to be used against invading Russian troops, Feb. 26, 2022. Credit: Yan Boechat/VOA via Wikimedia Commons.
A group of civilians in Kyiv, Ukraine, gather in a city basement to make Molotov cocktails to be used against invading Russian troops, Feb. 26, 2022. Credit: Yan Boechat/VOA via Wikimedia Commons.
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern is the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a think tank that specializes in the Middle East. She is the author of Saudi Arabia and the Global Terrorist Network (2011).  

Every day now, we awaken to more bone-chilling images of what Russia has done to the people of Ukraine. As I write this, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko has said that more than 10,000 people have been found dead since the immoral invasion began by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

By now, there is no question in the eyes of the objective onlooker that Russia is routinely involved in war crimes and in crimes against humanity. President Joe Biden event went so far as to say that he felt Putin was “committing genocide.”

We are hearing reports of arbitrary torture and of forced disappearance, as well as the relocation of a least 2,500 children, and their transfer to “filtration” camps. This is among the more than 6,000 cases and counting of alleged war crimes that are being investigated.

Yet because of an eagerness to cement a nuclear deal with Iran, the Biden administration is neglecting to connect the dots between the strong alliance between Russia and Iran. As we are trying to create a worldwide embargo against Russia due to their horrific human-rights atrocities, somehow, we are giving them a “pass” to deal with Iran.

When we embolden Iran, we are simultaneously emboldening their ally, Russia. We are attempting to impose a worldwide embargo on Russian oil and nuclear energy, so much so that we are considering sanctioning China for dealing with Russia. Yet Russia has been given a “green light” in its dealings with Iran.

Last month, Russia almost put the nuclear debate on permanent suspension in Vienna to secure a license to salvage its nuclear and reactor fuel trade with Iran. According to Andrea Trickler of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, this includes an excess of 10 billion for the Bushehr plant, four subsidies of Russia’s state-owned Rosatom nuclear corporation, Rosatom Energy International, Atomstroyexport, TVL Fuel Company and TENEX.

On March 15, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that in order to pursue its lucrative nuclear and oil trade with Iran, “we have written guarantees; they are included in the very text of the agreement on reviving the JCPOA.”

Further, on April 11, a story broke in The Guardian that Russia is receiving armaments and military hardware from Iraq through the assistance of Shi’ite smuggling networks based on reports from Iranian- backed sources. Rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), anti-tank missiles and Brazilian-designed rocket launcher systems have all been sent to Russia via Iran-backed Shi’ite networks for the Russians to execute its horrific war against Ukraine.

The Popular Mobilization Forces, or Hashd al-Sh’abi—a major Shi’ite militia umbrella group in the region—took the weapons to Iran and the Iranian military.

A spokesman for Hashd al-Sh’abi said: “We don’t care where the heavy weapons go because we don’t need them at the moment. Whatever is anti-U.S. makes us happy.”

Of course, these weapons are coming from the same Iran that manufactured IEDs with Farsi imprints on them, which resulted in thousands of American military forces coming home from Iraq with missing limbs or in body bags. It’s the same Iran that in 1983 murdered 241 U.S. Marines asleep in their barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. It is the same Iran where its esteemed President Ebrahim Raisi is known as the “butcher of Tehran” because of his 1988 death squads in which he sentenced more than 5,000 brave Iranian dissidents to death, along with members of the LGBTQ community. There were so many condemned that they had to be lifted up in cranes, six at a time.

It is one thing that there are somehow those who still believe that enriching the Iranian regime with at least $90 billion in unfrozen assets will prevent them from developing a nuclear bomb; we know it will not. And we know that the money will not go to the people but to its terror proxies throughout the world, as well as its missile program and to further advance its nuclear program.

It is quite another to give a green light to the Russians as they inflict the greatest crimes against humanity seen on the European continent since World War II.

Either we acknowledge that Russia is evil and are serious about a total economic embargo on this horrific regime, or we don’t. Because of the administration’s habitual willingness to willfully blind themselves to the sheer evil that is the Iranian regime and their hellbent desire to reach a deal with Iran, we are willing to close our eyes to the enormous evil that not only exists in the Islamic Republic but within Russia.

This sort of situational ethics should not be a part of American foreign policy. Either we will find ourselves standing on the right side of history, or we will not.

Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, D.C.

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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