On the campaign trail, President Joe Biden promised to rejoin the terminally flawed Iran nuclear deal. It has turned out to be a bit more complicated than that, however.
Iran has refused to back off its violations of the agreement, which was originally designed to pressure the U.S. into lifting its sanctions on the regime. Iranian officials refused to even meet face-to-face with a U.S. delegation the Biden administration sent to Vienna in April for “proximity talks,” according to Axios.
Things are likely about to get a lot rougher for the Biden administration.
On June 18, Iranians go to the polls to elect the successor to President Hassan Rouhani. According to The Guardian, Iran’s Guardian Council — which decides which candidates are eligible for the election — has barred reformists and centrists from the race, allowing seven mostly hardliner candidates to run.
And as Saeid Jafari noted in a December Op-Ed for Foreign Policy, Iran’s hardliners “opposed signing the deal long before outgoing President Donald Trump withdrew from it in May 2018” — meaning the Biden administration will be negotiating with Iran from a position of serious weakness.
So naturally, the Biden administration unilaterally lifted some of the sanctions on Iran on Thursday. Not that Iran stopped enriching uranium beyond the limits set by the nuclear deal, as it’s been consistently doing for some time now.
There weren’t any promises. Just sanctions relief.
According to The Washington Free Beacon, the Treasury and State departments announced they were removing sanctions on several companies and former Iranian officials who helped the country evade oil sanctions.
“The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Department of State are lifting sanctions on three former Government of Iran officials, and two companies previously involved in the purchase, acquisition, sale, transport, or marketing of Iranian petrochemical products, as a result of a verified change in status or behavior on the part of the sanctioned parties,” the State Department said.
“These actions demonstrate our commitment to lifting sanctions in the event of a change in status or behavior by sanctioned persons.”
Iran, however, has demanded the removal of all sanctions placed on it after the Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal — officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — in 2018.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is insisting the sanctions relief has nothing to do with JCPOA negotiations.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the move had “absolutely no connection” to the negotiations in Vienna, The Wall Street Journal reported. A Treasury Department official added, “This is not a wider easing of sanctions on the oil sector of Iran.”
The decision to lift the sanctions drew criticism from conservatives.
“The Biden admin is rushing to dismantle sanctions on Iran, including and especially their oil industry and shipping, before even the pretense of a deal,” Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted. “What happened to Biden’s promise not to give the Ayatollah unilateral concessions?”
The Biden admin is rushing to dismantle sanctions on Iran, including and especially their oil industry and shipping, before even the pretense of a deal.
What happened to Biden’s promise not to give the Ayatollah unilateral concessions? https://t.co/wRrSClz7Ew
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) June 10, 2021
Anthony Ruggiero, one of former President Donald Trump’s top national security advisors and now a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, was similarly unimpressed.
“Lifting sanctions during negotiations shows weakness to Iran and tells Tehran to continue its nefarious activities, including nuclear extortion and sending conventional arms to U.S. adversaries,” Ruggiero told The Journal.
It’s no secret that the Biden administration was hoping to wrap up some sort of agreement before next week’s election — and it’s still trying to put a happy face on what’s going on in Vienna.
“I know that the negotiation will start again over this coming weekend,” Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said on Wednesday, according to Al Jazeera.
“I think there’s been a lot of progress made, but out of my own experience until the last detail is nailed down, and I mean nailed down, we will not know if we have an agreement,” she said, adding that the situation “is complicated, of course, by the Iranian presidential election, which is happening in just a few days.”
And then there’s the question of which sanctions to lift. According to The Wall Street Journal, the Biden administration has said it’s open to eliminating the sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear program, but not sanctions involving Iran’s terrorist activities and proxy wars.
For instance, the sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is deemed a terrorist organization by the U.S., are supposed to stay in place — at least according to the Biden administration.
That’s the same administration that removed sanctions on Iranian companies and individuals as it’s trying to forge some kind of deal with an obstreperous regime that’s probably about to get a lot more combative.
The Biden administration remains publicly confident it can rejoin the JCPOA without removing the sanctions on Iran’s proxy wars in the Middle East.
Those proxy wars were enabled, by the way, by the original deal, which removed sanctions and freed up money for Iran to use on military hardware to send to groups like the Houthi rebels in Yemen or Hamas in Israel.
As Thursday’s move should prove, however, everything is negotiable — and in this case, Iran didn’t even have to do any negotiating.
Biden is rewarding a rogue nation that’s willfully disregarding its obligations to the world, even as it continues to act recklessly and does nothing to correct its course.
It goes a long way to explaining Hunter Biden, no?
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