Just when you thought there was great progress for peace in the Middle East, and as Iran is feeling the pinch of sanctions and isolation from the civilized world—enter Team Biden. Amos Hochstein, a senior aide to then-Vice President Biden and one who oversaw energy sanctions for Iran during the Obama-Biden Administration, stated, “I believe that in the first months [of a Biden presidency], we’ll either see him rejoin the deal fully, or what I call ‘JCPOA-minus,’ meaning lifting sanctions in exchange for suspending some of the Iranian nuclear programs [developed] in the past three years.”
This statement came while there are reports that the Trump Administration—with cooperation from Israel and the Arab Gulf States—are planning increased sanctions in an attempt to make America’s withdrawal from the farcical Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) permanent.
Here is what you need to know.
But wait. There is more. Hochstein stated that Biden “sees the two-state solution as preferable to one state,” speaking of the progress that has been made recently for the security of everyone in the region. He said, a potential Biden Administration would “bring the Palestinian issue back to the heart of discourse.” Never mind that for decades Palestinian leaders have rejected every overture for peace and for the establishment of a Palestinian state. The Biden team would disregard the significance of the Abraham Accords where, at long last, Arab nations are establishing peace and normal relations with Israel for the first time in decades. Weary of Palestinian intransigence and its support of terrorism, Arab nations have been lining up to detach peace and security for themselves from the seemingly unsolvable problem of placating Palestinian leaders.
President Trump, for example, presented a peace plan last January that called for a Palestinian state in 70 percent of the West Bank, parts of the suburbs of Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The plan was roundly rejected by the Palestinian Authority (PA). A representative of PA President Mahmoud Abbas said he had sent word that the PA would resume peace negotiations with Israel only if they could start where the Obama Administration left off in 2016. Meanwhile, President Abbas is demanding that (if Biden is sworn into office) the United States move its embassy from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv and stop identifying Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Just when there was real progress in the entire region and the hope for peace that dates back to 1948—it appears that a new U.S. Administration might possibly resort back to a plan that has categorically and continually failed.
Back to Hochstein’s statement, it is important to examine the language carefully. One possible proposal would be to rejoin the JCPOA, period. This ignores the fact that in the last three years, Iran itself has purposely ignored the restrictions of the nuclear deal and has now enriched more than its allowed nuclear material. Iran is well on its way to having nuclear weapons even now. The only hope to stop this is the Trump Doctrine for the area and for the U.S. to continue its cooperation with the Arab nations there to squelch Iran’s malevolent ambitions. The other, even more alarming, possibility according to Hochstein is to simply remove sanctions from Iran in exchange for Iran suspending some (not all) of the progress it has made over the last three years in pursuit of nuclear weapons. Not a demand that the new capabilities be destroyed, but simply that Iran partially stop where it is after years of violating the terms of the nuclear agreement.
All of this would relinquish the leverage that the United States and its allies have over Iran to stop them from threatening not only their neighbors—but the entire world. One need look no further than North Korea to understand what another evil empire with nuclear weapons would be like. Tepid attempts to stop North Korea from being a nuclear power by negotiations and by giving them aid are what led to the permanent threat posed by that country and to the present predicament where there are no options now other than hoping that North Korea won’t use the weapons they have and giving them warnings to “play nice.” Weak and failed attempts to stop North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is what led President Obama to tell incoming President Donald Trump that North Korea would be his greatest national security challenge. Now it appears that a potential Biden Administration would add a second greatest national security challenge with a nuclear Iran.
The Gulf States and other Arab nations in the region are right to be alarmed. Their security—even their survival—is in the balance. Over four decades, Iran has sown violence and instability. Iran has never paused its violent destabilizing activity in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Gaza. Through proxies, they have attempted to overthrow the government in Bahrain. Iran has supplied missiles to the Houthi rebels who have launched them at civilians in Saudi Arabia. Iran has supported Hamas’ attacks on Israel and given weapons and technology to Hezbollah. Recent statements by Iranian leadership indicate that they have steadily continued their pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The threat from Iran is real. Their intentions are clear, as evidenced by their own proclamations. We must not put geo-political blinders on. We need to listen to what Iranian leaders are saying. We must look at their actions realistically. Hoping they will change their minds or keep their word and join the community of nations as a peaceful participant is naïve. And hope is not only an ineffective strategy—it is no strategy at all. Now more than ever, standing with our Arab allies as they join Israel in standing against Iran is vital. The ramifications of how we deal with Iran—and the second and third order effects of what we do—are the biggest national security threat for any U.S. presidential administration. We must keep sanctions on Iran. We must make it clear to Iran that any negotiations are contingent upon them giving up their pursuit of nuclear weapons in a verifiable way and stopping their terrorist activities.
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