While America watches the war in Ukraine, Biden finalizes a very dangerous Iran deal

While America watches the war in Ukraine, Biden finalizes a very dangerous Iran deal

Guest editorial by Eric R. Mandel

While the world’s attention is fixated on Russia’s war in Ukraine, President Biden’s Iran envoy in Vienna, Robert Malley, reportedly is readying to finalize a deal that makes a number of worrying concessions to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his regime.

Gabriel Noronha, a former Senate Armed Services Committee aide to the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former State Department official, has tweeted specifics of some American concessions to Iran. Noronha says his former State Department, National Security Council, and European Union colleagues were so alarmed about compromises the Biden administration appears to be making with Iran that they allowed him to publish details to alert Congress to how the pending agreement could undermine America’s national security interests. 

The agreement details are known to the governments of Russia, China and Iran, but evidently not to Congress, and certainly not to the American people. It’s possible that an agreement could be signed by early next week.

The Biden team’s desire to revive what they worked on during the Obama administration and to have the United States rejoin the nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is no surprise. What is shocking is the extent of sanctions relief that Malley, the lead negotiator, appears ready to offer. Earlier this year, Malley’s deputy, Richard Nephew, protested the lack of a harder approach by resigning.

Noronha tells me his former colleagues hold out hope that Congress “will act to stop the capitulation” by the Biden administration. Sanctions relief reportedly is being offered for some of Iran’s worst human rights abusers and terrorists, as well as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the State Department designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2019. Among those who reportedly could be granted a reprieve from sanctions are IRGC Gen. Hossein Dehghan, who led forces that killed 241 U.S. soldiers in 1983 in Beirut, and Ayatollah Khamenei’s personal corporations, worth tens of billions of dollars.

This could be just the tip of the iceberg. The U.S. helped to restore Iran’s voting rights at the United Nations by releasing Iranian funds frozen in South Korean banks. And an exchange of U.S. and Iranian prisoners, with a release of funds, is reported to be part of the deal. As Noronha tweeted: “Every individual and entity that was de-sanctioned under the JCPOA’s Annex II Attachment 3 will have all sanctions stripped again, even though close to 100 of them were later sanctioned for terrorism, human rights violations, and participation in Iran’s WMD activities.”

The Biden team evidently intends to bypass the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) of 2015, which requires that any changes to the nuclear deal be given a 30-day hearing in Congress. The last thing that President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken want is to shine a spotlight on their concessions to Iran. The claim that the world will be safer with this deal would be laughable if it were not so dangerous.

The tragedy in Ukraine has caused the U.S. media to stop scrutinizing a new nuclear deal with Iran, and the Biden administration’s sidestepping of any congressional review could undermine our security interests and those of our allies. 

Biden and Blinken remain illogically married to a deal that inexplicably ignores all the lines Iran has crossed since the first agreement — from its missile development to human rights abuses to terrorism to a full-court press to achieve hegemonic domination of its neighbors. The U.S. and its allies are rightfully outraged at Russia’s aggressive expansionism, but this new Iran deal appears headed to give hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief to a nation that has demonstrated its explicit raison d’etre is dominating the Middle East, spreading hatred and bringing down “the Great Satan.”

It seems incomprehensible that concessions to Iran would occur while their kindred spirit in Russia is lobbing explosives into residential neighborhoods of Kyiv to break civilian morale. One could make a strong case that the jihadist beliefs of Khamenei and his minions are just as dangerous as the brutal authoritarian in Moscow. Among its human rights abuses, Iran hangs journalists, LGBT people and others to reinforce the Islamic republic’s rules.

America should insist on a full display of any agreement with Iran, without its details being kept from the public eye as they were in 2015. Congress should thoroughly review what is negotiated and vote on the deal. 

* * * * *

Dr. Eric R. Mandel is the director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political Information Network. He regularly briefs members of Congress and their foreign policy aides. He is the senior security editor for the Jerusalem Report/ Jerusalem Post. Follow him on Twitter @MepinOrg.

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