Five Reasons Why Iran Is a Major Issue for the Biden Administration
President Joe Biden, the 46th President of the United States, faces a number of critically important issues as he assumes office this week. The Left and members of Biden’s inner circle continue to call for him to reverse many of the Trump Administration’s policies and to fundamentally change many of the priorities of the United States. These include re-entering the Paris Climate Accord, immigration and border security, the military budget, and the Department of Defense as a whole. The economy and President Biden’s pledge to raise taxes could cripple businesses already reeling from the COVID-19 health crisis. The United States is energy independent now and thousands of new jobs were created over the last four years in the energy field. Will policies and Executive orders of the new Administration reverse that? These are only a few of the potential flashpoints on the horizon.
Out of all the potential issues facing the new President, none is more important than how the United States addresses the rogue nation of Iran, still the world’s largest state-sponsor of terrorism. This matter directly impacts foreign relations, peace in the Middle East, and our own national security. Former President Obama told then-incoming President Trump that the biggest issue he would face was North Korea. For President Biden, that number one issue is Iran. He has indicated he wants to re-enter the flawed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or the Iran nuclear deal of 2015. This would be a mistake of enormous proportions. Here are five reasons why.
Iran used the billions of dollars freed up for them by the Obama Administration to continue exporting terrorism, to build up their arsenal of sophisticated missiles, and for continued research and development of nuclear technology. Many of the funds Iran received went into the pockets of their radical clerical leaders and to the enrichment of the infamous Revolutionary Guard Corps. Meanwhile the Iranian citizenry face economic hardships and imprisonment if they dare to protest their leaders’ actions.
In anticipation of a new U.S. Administration, Iran’s misbehavior has kicked into high gear. They conducted huge military exercises last week off the coast of Oman. Iran tested more ballistic missiles this week in defiance of United Nations prohibitions. Iran’s military leadership boasted of a new missile that can strike a moving U.S. Navy ship with pinpoint accuracy from 600 miles away. Iran has one of the largest ballistic missile arsenals in the region. These missiles pose a conventional military threat, as well as being used as vehicles to carry a potential nuclear warhead.
In the last few days, Iran detained a South Korean ship in international waters and, once again, an explosive device was found on another oil tanker. They put another American citizen in prison, bringing the number of U.S. citizens illegally held there to four. Iran’s religious leader Khamenei, their president, and their foreign minister have stated they will only enter talks with the United States if all sanctions against Iran are lifted. Iran’s parliament just introduced a resolution that promises that the nation of Israel will no longer exist in 20 years, a not-so-veiled threat in keeping with their calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.
In short, Iran’s malign behavior has not changed. With the transfer of political leadership in the United States, they are counting on the United States changing its behavior, not the other way around. The seriousness of this issue cannot be overstated. How the Biden Administration responds has consequences that will outlive the next four years. The known effects of how the U.S. deals with Iran are fairly obvious. The unknown, long-term impact of how we respond to this sworn enemy of the United States is even more ominous. Mr. Biden, please choose wisely.
Being nice to Iran in hopes that they will be nice in return is a foolish strategy. It is a strategy that Iran has repeatedly rebuffed. Some 30 years ago, the United States and the western world had a similar strategy regarding North Korea. We thought that negotiations, combined with financial and humanitarian aid, would convince North Korea that they did not need nuclear weapons. North Korea made many promises, failing to keep them—but keeping the financial aid and celebrating the lifting of sanctions. Today North Korea has numerous nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them. Placation and negotiations were an abject failure, reflecting a naivete about the enemy we faced. Our only strategy today on the Korean peninsula is to warn North Korea not to use the weapons and to sincerely hope they do not.
Iran is a much more dangerous and unpredictable adversary. Unlike North Korea, they do have territorial and military ambitions. They do work to undermine and potentially overthrow the governments of their neighbors in the Gulf States. They support multiple terror groups, including Hamas and Hezbollah who plot the destruction of Israel and attack that country periodically. They interfere with shipping in the region. Through their proxies, they have attacked civilian populations in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They call for the death and destruction of the United States and its people.
The JCPOA gave Iran massive financial assets in exchange for mere promises. It did not prohibit Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, but only made them promise not to do so for ten years. While international inspectors could check Iran’s compliance, they were not allowed to inspect any Iranian military facilities—the logical place for Iran to continue its work on the world’s most dangerous weapon. The Iran nuclear deal was hollow and flawed from the beginning.
Today, Iran is in open violation of the agreement. It has increased the number of centrifuges used to enrich uranium. They have buried their nuclear research deep underground, far from the eyes of United Nations inspectors. Iran admitted it is now enriching uranium at 20 percent, far above the restrictions in the JCPOA. The Arms Control Association in Washington, D.C. says Iran is now in possession of twice the amount of nuclear material needed to produce a nuclear bomb; all that remains is to enrich it to a weapons grade level. Just last week Iran informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that they are constructing an assembly line on which to produce uranium metal. This metal is a key component in a nuclear bomb, forming the core of the device that facilitates the chain reaction that produces a nuclear explosion.
Iran is attempting to back President Biden into a corner. He can either swiftly drop sanctions against Iran and re-sign the JCPOA, or risk continued confrontations with the headquarters of terror in the world. May President Biden have the wisdom to know that one cannot negotiate with terrorists and expect them to keep their word. May he also have the courage to stand up to Iran’s manipulation and terrorist threats and to grasp that job number one for any American President is national security.