Five years ago, the Obama administration made a gamble on a diplomatic experiment with Iran — a gamble that failed miserably. Unfortunately, the United States and its allies still live with the consequences of President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Since the deal, Iran has ramped up its nuclear ambitions and used the billions of dollars of sanctions relief it received to bankroll its terrorist proxies and fuel regional instability. Now, Joe Biden promises to repeat the same mistakes by re-entering the nuclear deal if he is elected.
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Defense Secretary Robert Gates famously stated that Biden has been “wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” The nuclear deal with Iran is no exception.
In an article titled “Joe Biden’s world,” Damir Marusic explained that Biden’s fundamental foreign policy shortcoming is his fatal misunderstanding of diplomacy. Marusic argued that deals between adversaries are just “temporary” arrangements and “not the bedrock upon which lasting order is built.” The nuclear deal was antithetical to this principle; it provided the United States a false sense of security through a temporary agreement that was contingent on the goodwill and compliance of a regime that chants “death to America.”
The JCPOA provided an estimated $50-100 billion of sanctions relief to the Islamic Republic. This money was not spent on internal reforms. Instead, it was spent funding Iran’s regional expansion through terrorism and proxy conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon.
Providing a windfall of cash to the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism was a significant betrayal of America’s long-standing alliances in the Middle East. Most notably, it exacerbated national security concerns for Israel and Saudi Arabia, who have borne the brunt of the attacks by Iran-backed terrorist groups like Hezbollah, the Houthis, and Hamas.
Iran used the cash it received to sow regional instability by propping up the Assad regime in Syria, intensifying the conflict in Yemen, and attacking American allies. Secretary of State John Kerry even admitted that the money Iran received would “end up in the hands of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists.”
Despite the certainty of emboldening Iran with the nuclear deal, the Obama administration argued that Iran’s nuclear ambitions were a more pressing concern than its regional meddling. There was just one issue: the nuclear deal utterly failed to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
At its core, the nuclear deal depended on Iranian transparency and cooperation. It was, frankly, quite a great deal of faith to grant a rogue regime whose very existence is based on subverting American interests. Since the deal, Iran has violated restrictions on nuclear and ballistic development several times. As of June 2020, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported that the regime is in violation of every JCPOA restriction on uranium stockpiles, enrichment activities, and ballistic missile testing.
Given the severe shortcomings and missteps of the nuclear deal, it’s no surprise that the Obama administration relied on aggressive media manipulation and deception to sell it to the public. Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security advisor, boasted about creating an “echo chamber” by taking advantage of “inexperienced” journalists who “literally know nothing” and feeding them pro-Iran deal talking points.
Biden should not be allowed to sell a disastrous foreign policy by misinforming the American public again. His campaign promise of re-entering the nuclear deal would be even more disastrous than the initial agreement.
The deal was meant to be a temporary agreement and had several “sunset” clauses, meaning its restrictions would slowly expire starting in 2020. In October 2020, the arms embargo banning Iran from importing weapons from countries like China and Russia is set to expire. As restrictions expire, the nuclear deal will continue to lose its efficacy. A return to the JCPOA in a Biden administration would result in billions of dollars of sanctions relief in exchange for nothing from Iran.
The Obama doctrine was a disaster for American interests in the Middle East. If Biden wins the election in November, policymakers and the media must be wary of past blunders and missteps with Iran resurfacing. Democrats must hold his administration accountable and prevent a return to the policy of appeasing Iran. Failure to do so would embolden the regime’s nuclear, ballistic, and terrorist activities and undermine any hope of achieving peace in the Middle East.