(February 24, 2022 / JNS) The contrast could scarcely be more glaring. America’s strategy to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine is to impose sanctions. But its strategy to deter aggression by the Iranian regime is to lift sanctions.
Not only is this contradictory, but in terms of effectiveness, it’s precisely the wrong way round. Sanctions were pointless once Putin’s assault on Ukraine was already underway, as its president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, so bitterly observed.
But sanctions did weaken the Iranian regime as it raced towards achieving nuclear weapons breakout capacity. Sanctions were aimed at encouraging the Iranian people to rise up and topple the regime, the best chance of avoiding a nuclear-armed Iran short of war.
Now the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden has reportedly reached an agreement that’s even worse than the disastrous 2015 nuclear deal, lifting all constraints on Iran’s manufacture of nuclear weapons within two and a half years.
If this is so, Biden will have played midwife to the Iranian bomb which his administration has so vapidly pledged to prevent and towards which Tehran has already taken huge strides through America’s policy of appeasement.
In return for a commitment to Iranian restraint that won’t be worth the paper on which it’s written, the deal means the Biden administration will lift those sanctions that it has not quietly lifted already.
America will thus enable billions of dollars to be funneled into Tehran to fund its global terrorism, its arming of Hamas and Hezbollah against Israel and its march to regional hegemony.
Why is the Biden administration set upon such a dreadful course of action? One suggestion is malice against Israel, which Tehran has targeted for genocidal destruction. This malice is evidenced by the role of the virulently anti-Israel Tehran apologist Robert Malley as Biden’s point man on Iran.
But a nuclear-armed Iran threatens America too. Iran is developing ballistic missiles which could reach America, against which it’s been at war ever since the Islamic regime came to power in 1979.
So, the reason for this extraordinarily perverse policy must lie deeper. The real cause is surely the belief system fundamental to the West’s governing and intellectual classes, and which links their Iran strategy with their approach to Putin — and also with their hostility towards Israel.
This is the conviction that the brotherhood of man can be created by avoiding conflict through the application of reason, which is assumed to be a universal value. Adherents place their faith in interdependence, globalization and the power of diplomacy to avoid war.
The principal architect of the 2015 nuclear deal, former President Barack Obama, reportedly believed that since Iran was in his view a historic victim of the West, empowering it would draw its aggressive sting and promote stability and peace in the region.
Israel — a westernized nation stubbornly insisting on defending itself against annihilation — couldn’t be allowed to frustrate that vision. And Obama’s thinking seems also to be the Biden administration’s default position.
Moreover, according to this thinking, the real problem for the world is not the threats that human beings represent towards each other. It is instead the threat they collectively represent to the existence of the planet itself through man-made global warming.
This is intimately linked to the West’s catastrophic weakness against Putin. For its obsession with “climate change” has handed Putin a devastating blackmail weapon with which he can paralyze any deployment of effective sanctions.
That’s because the green agenda has sent the west into a trap of its own making.
Its determination to reduce carbon emissions has turned it away from fossil fuels in favor of renewables. Because these are so unreliable as sources of energy, however, the west has become increasingly dependent upon natural gas.
Europe now gets most of its gas from Russia. So, Putin, with his hand on the spigots which he can open or shut at will, has the power to restrict gas supplies, send the price of gas shooting up and inflict on Western nations both power outages and eye-watering increases in their cost of living.
Last year, the Biden administration made this trap even worse. It withdrew its support from the gas pipeline that would have linked Israel to Europe through Cyprus and Greece.
That pipeline would not only have promoted energy independence and economic prosperity for Israel, Cyprus and Greece. It would also have helped diversify gas supplies and thus eased European dependency on Russia.
The U.S. ostensibly opposed it over concerns about fossil fuels. Yet last year, Biden greenlighted the final construction of Nord Stream 2, the gas pipeline from Russia to Germany which bypasses Ukraine.
If this were to start operating, it would give Putin a devastating weapon with which to blackmail western Europe by threatening to cut off its energy supplies.
Biden has now reversed himself and pressurized Germany to junk Nord Stream 2. But by originally greenlighting it while vetoing the eastern Mediterranean pipeline, America privileged its Russian foe over its allies. This suggests something malign beyond the green agenda.
In addition to the “climate change” obsession, the West’s fantasy of a world governed by interdependence, reason and diplomacy is imploding in both Ukraine and Iran.
Faith in interdependence meant the West viewed Putin as someone with whom it could do profitable business without any problem. It assumed that close financial and economic links would knit him into the community of nations so that he would pose no threat to anyone beyond Russia.
Western countries believed that buying Russian gas would cement the ties that created peace. Instead, they merely handed Putin the means to blackmail them.
The doctrine of interdependence similarly created the fantasy that empowering Iran would turn it from the West’s most lethal terrorist foe into a civilized partner in mutually profitable endeavor.
Above all, the West has told itself that war is unconscionable — even in self-defense — and can always be avoided by diplomacy. This doctrine has reached its nadir in the Iran negotiations, where American diplomacy has become a euphemism for abject surrender.
The Iranian regime’s perception that Biden would never take military action, despite repeated attacks by its proxies against the U.S. and its allies, emboldened it to dig in its heels in the nuclear talks. Ramping up its aggression resulted in more American concessions and the conviction in Tehran that America would give it whatever it demanded.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this week that he would not allow Putin’s pretense of diplomacy to obscure his aggressive acts. Yet that’s precisely what he’s been doing with Iran — as Putin will have noted.
For the Russian leader, sanctions are but a minor irritant. Serious intent against him by the West would entail putting its military boots on the ground.
Tyrants respect only power. The absence of serious intent is viewed as weakness and spurs more aggression. The only reason the 1962 Cuban missile crisis was defused was that Cuba’s prime minster, Fidel Castro, understood that the U.S. was prepared to fight and sacrifice American lives — which it then was.
The paradox of peace is that its maintenance depends on making the credible threat of war. Western liberals reject this as “war-mongering.” For them, diplomacy has become a religion.
When it comes to resisting abuses of power, however, diplomacy is the god that fails over and over again. When used as a strategy against implacable aggression, it turns its adherents into accessories to killing.
That’s why the Israel “peace process” resulted in thousands of murdered Israelis. It’s why Iran is poised to get its genocide bomb. And it’s why Ukraine will now pay a terrible price — at the hands of a tyrant empowered by a West consumed by its own ludicrous and lethal illusions.
Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a weekly column for JNS. Currently a columnist for “The Times of London,” her personal and political memoir, “Guardian Angel,” has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, “The Legacy.” Go to melaniephillips.substack.com to access her work.
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