As the world watches in horror as Vladimir Putin’s Russia bombs civilian sites like maternity hospitals in Ukraine in an unprovoked attack of raw conquest, sanctions have been imposed on a number of Russian banks, individuals and businesses.
Many are increasingly talking about and espousing buying American; however, that conversation actually started long before now.
When China began to leverage its manufacturing base during the pandemic to disadvantage nations that questioned its role in developing and hiding information about the COVID-19 pandemic, it became clear that becoming dependent on an adversarial nation for basic needs is not a good strategy.
Having run off most of our medical manufacturing facilities from Puerto Rico turned out to be not only harmful to Puerto Ricans employed in those facilities, but it turned out to be bad for Americans everywhere.
The U.S. needed China, so it could sell us medicines and supplies that we no longer could make. This gave China power and leverage over us. Control they were and arequite happy to possess and use.
The conflict in Ukraine illustrates another important point.
Sending money to a vicious and ruthless dictator gives him the resources to employ unthinkable atrocities — like bombing women and children in a maternity hospital — and attempts to force free nations to accept a foreign dictator as their ruler.
Challenging times often give us a chance to develop and display character.
It’s often hardest to do the right thing when it carries a heavy cost.
That’s what makes a recent move by Boeing so interesting.
The company announced it has suspended buying titanium from Russia, one of the world’s largest suppliers of the commodity. There are currently no sanctions imposed on Russian titanium so Boeing is drawing a line in the sand and making a strong statement about where it stands.
Naturally, the move has not gone over well with Russia.
Titanium is an important metal in the aerospace industry because of its strength and lightweight characteristics. It’s as strong and hard as steel, but weighs about half as much.
Titanium has the added benefit of being highly resistant to corrosion.
If you want to build world-class jumbo jets, you must have titanium to do so.
Boeing decided that it would move forward without Russian titanium because putting money in Putin’s pocket would only help his efforts to destroy Ukraine, topple its democratically elected government, and oppress about 40 million Ukrainians.
In contrast to Boeing’s strong stance, Airbus has announced that it will continue to buy titanium from Russia. That says a lot about Airbus — and none of it’s good.
There is an appreciable history of questionable business practices at Airbus, prompting investigations in the United Kingdom, where the allegation is the breach of the Bribery Act of 2010.
Airbus has agreed to pay billions in fines because it settled accusations of bribery, regarding the purported obtainment of lucrative contracts in foreign countries. French and U.S. authorities have also found indications of alleged bribery involving Airbus and their agents in Russia and China.
The bottom line is Americans should think twice before doing business with Airbus, especially our government and military leaders.
Why should we trust the business with national security contracts?
Some argue we should trust Airbus, but that seems as naive as making yourself dependent upon China for critically important medicines in a pandemic.
America ought not be beholden to anyone for the things that it needs the most.
As Russia is a potential nuclear threat, it’s pretty clear that missile defense technology is a critical need and must be 100% American. And as fears loom about war and the long-term intentions of China and Russia, all of our national security technology must also be 100% American.
To make ourselves dependent on others — particularly those with a checkered past —makes zero sense.
If we send our national security capabilities and jobs overseas, we’ll assuredly regret it.
And has no endgame for the war in Ukraine.
No wonder they give him a list of reporters to call on. President Biden was doing fine at his NATO press conference until it was time to leave. Dazzled by the many reporters barking at him as he moved toward the exit, the president took one more question. He called on Christina Ruffini from CBS News. And instantly regretted it. Their exchange was a reminder that Biden has trouble articulating the meaning of deterrence, the function of alliances, and America’s desired end-state in Ukraine.
“Sir,” Ruffini said, “deterrence didn’t work. What makes you think Vladimir Putin will alter course based on the action you’ve taken today?”
“Let’s get something straight,” Biden replied. “You remember, if you’ve covered me from the very beginning, I did not say that in fact the sanctions would deter him. Sanctions never deter. You keep talking about that. Sanctions never deter.”
They don’t? Then why did Biden threaten Putin with sanctions to begin with?
Anyone with an internet connection and a little curiosity can see that, in the runup to Putin’s invasion, Biden’s vice president, secretary of state, and national security adviser all said the chance of sanctions would have a deterrent effect. Obviously, it did not.
Rather than admit that Ruffini’s premise is correct—U.S. strategy during the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022 did not prevent war—Biden wants to amend the record to grant himself foresight retroactively. Give him points for gall.
What makes sanctions count, Biden said, is how long they are in place. “The maintenance of sanctions, the maintenance of sanctions, the increasing the pain and the demonstration why I asked for this NATO meeting today,” the president continued, “is to be sure that after a month we will sustain what we’re doing, not just next month, the following month, but for the remainder of this entire year. That’s what will stop him.”
Let’s hope so. The record, however, suggests that Biden is wrong. The United States has maintained an embargo on Cuba for six decades. Its behavior hasn’t changed. We’ve sanctioned North Korea for even longer. This week it launched an ICBM. We’ve slapped economic penalties on Iranian malign behavior for 40 years. Penalties that the Biden administration now wants to relax.
Imposed massively and preemptively, sanctions might deter a bad actor. Otherwise, they are punitive. Depending on their severity, they may crash an economy. They may constrain an autocrat. They rarely stop him.
Why? Because money matters less to tyrants than power. Putin desires most the recapitulation of the Russian Empire under his rule. What he fears is the collapse of his regime.
Putin’s been around. He saw the trial and execution of Saddam Hussein. He witnessed the popular removal of autocrats in Tunisia, Yemen, and Egypt during the short-lived Arab Spring. He watched as a mob killed Muammar Qaddafi. Putin has no regard for his citizens’ well-being. He is concerned only with his own.
You deter an adversary by putting at risk something he values. His life, for example. For Putin, the difference between victory and defeat in Ukraine is the difference between power and powerlessness, between life and death.
If President Biden had been more ambiguous about his possible military responses to a Russian invasion, Putin may have thought twice before embarking on his “special military operation.” He might not have wanted to risk a confrontation with the United States that could end in military defeat and political catastrophe. But Biden went out of his way to say that American troops would not protect Ukraine. And Biden has continued to say that his main goal is avoiding “World War III.”
Such caution is worthwhile. After all, prudence is a virtue. But Biden has spent far more time talking about what he won’t do than what he might do if Putin escalates or expands this war. That tendency has given the Russian dictator a strategic advantage.
Putin lost the information war in the West. He failed to achieve his initial objectives of smashing Kiev, overthrowing Zelensky, and splitting NATO. He ruined the Russian economy. But he still has Western governments living in fear of his next move. Fear that acts as a deterrent—on the West.
To quell such fear, Biden will have to rally the alliance to help Ukraine change the facts on the ground from stalemate to counteroffensive. That requires a massive influx of resources to Ukraine, far more economic and military assistance than has been provided already. It requires jettisoning the idea that providing Ukraine with Soviet-era weapons systems, including fighters, or conducting humanitarian airlifts into besieged Ukrainian cities is escalatory. It requires not red lines but strategic ambiguity to keep Putin wondering what the alliance might do next.
Biden isn’t prepared to embark on this course. “We have to stay fully, totally, thoroughly united,” he said at his press conference. Unity is nice. NATO and EU coordination during the crisis has been extraordinary. But these alliances are not ends in themselves. They are means to an end.
President Biden has yet to say what, exactly, that end is. Does the West seek a ceasefire, a Ukrainian victory, an end to Putin’s reign? We’ve said we want the invasion to stop. Of course. But stop where? Stop how?
“The single most important thing is for us to stay unified, and the world continue to focus on what a brute this guy is and all the innocent people’s lives that are being lost and ruined, and what’s going on,” Biden said Thursday. “That’s the important thing.”
No, it’s one important thing. The world has known for twenty years that Putin is a brute. Now it must act. Now Biden’s job is to give the Ukrainians the tools to guarantee democracy’s survival and the brute’s defeat.
The Biden administration is under attack over its continuing support for animal experimentation worldwide. Outrageously, given the current global political climate, that support includes funding for experiments on cats being conducted in Russian laboratories.
In a story first reported by The Washington Times, it was revealed that the U.S. National Institutes of Health – described on its website as the world’s largest biomedical research agency – is still underwriting medical experiments on cats at four facilities located in Russia despite global economic sanctions imposed following the unprovoked attack on Ukraine nearly a month ago.
As is often the case with research conducted on animals, the funding is being used ostensibly for scientific purposes. Nevertheless, say some Capitol Hill Republicans, the idea that any U.S. government dollars are going to Russia for any reason makes a mockery of the sanctions and raises real questions about how serious the White House is about forcing the Russian invaders back behind their borders.
“Our tax dollars should never be going to our foreign adversaries, especially as the U.S. puts crippling sanctions on the Kremlin,” Michigan GOP Rep. Lisa C. McClain told the paper.
McClain was one of a group of members of Congress who wrote the White House recently saying that cutting off the NIH grants should be “a bipartisan, common-sense position” and that the administration should take “swift and decisive action to block and further tax dollars from going to Russian research labs.”
This is not the first time the Biden administration has found itself being criticized for its refusal to end funding for experiments on animals. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine — a group that claims more than 17,000 doctors as members – held a protest at the White House in December 2021 during which its leaders called for the appointment of a new NIH director “who prioritizes human-relevant, nonanimal experimentation.”
“President Joe Biden has a momentous opportunity to positively transform health research,” Catharine E. Krebs, Ph.D., medical research specialist with the doctors’ group said in Lafayette Park. “The importance of this decision cannot be overstated; the lives of all Americans, and many, many animals, will be impacted.”
The NIH, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is currently without a full-time leader. Its acting director, Lawrence Tabak, D.D.S., Ph.D., took over after Dr. Francis Collins, a key policymaker during the COVID pandemic stepped down in December. President Biden has yet to nominate a successor to Collins – whom he recently tapped as his acting science advisor and acting co-chair of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology – and Tabak is believed to not have the clout or the desire to make the change in policy members of Congress like McClain are calling for without specific orders from the White House.
U.S. government funding of research on animals is often controversial. During the Trump administration, it was the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that came under fire over its use of beagles in experiments critics said were of dubious value. A study recently published by the White Coat Waste Project, a self-described “animal rights group,” placed the value of the funding sent to Russia’s state-run Pavlov Institute of Physiology at more than half a million dollars. The money was used, it said, to fund spinal cord research on cats, most of whom “did not survive long after the experiment was finished,” the paper said. In 2018, NIH is reported to have provided a similar grant to the Russian lab of more than $220,000 to fund a similar project.
In its materials, the physicians’ group maintains there is “increasing recognition among scientists that animal experiments do not produce the health solutions needed to prevent and protect against disease.” It also insists such experiments have a “dismal success rate” predicting whether the treatments being tested will be successful.
“Taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to pay white coats in the Russian government to torture and kill cats in wasteful treadmill experiments,” Mackie Burr, vice president of the White Coat Waste Project said in a release, adding that the “four Kremlin-run animal testing labs that NIH has authorized to receive our money” should be defunded as part of the sanctions imposed over Ukraine.
Whoever Biden appoints as the next NIH director will likely face congressional investigations looking into these and other agency activities. It is believed by many, for example, that NIH grants to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology may somehow have been involved in the development of the virus commonly known as COVID-19. The connection has not been proven to a certainty but at least one prominent member of Congress, Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul, has promised to hold hearings investigating what the Wuhan lab did with the money it received from the U.S. should the Republicans regain control of the U.S. Senate after the November 2022 elections.
America needs energy independence and a much larger military to deter Putin
Ever since last year, when Vladimir Putin began preparing for an invasion of Ukraine, President Biden has tried to deter him. Biden tried to reason with the Russian autocrat. He released declassified intelligence to rally the world against the imminent threat. He supported French president Emmanuel Macron’s last-ditch attempt at diplomacy. He warned Russia that a war would be met with harsh economic sanctions.
Nothing worked. Negotiations failed. So-called “deterrence through disclosure” had no effect. The threat of punishment carried no weight. The invasion began in the early hours of February 24. The largest military action undertaken on the continent of Europe since World War II is underway. Anyone who pretends to know what will happen next is kidding themselves.
President Biden and America’s allies in Europe have prepared a program of sanctions to punish Putin, his inner circle, and the Russian security and military services for this unprovoked assault on an independent nation of some 40 million people. Biden is right to do so. Free societies have an obligation to demonstrate their revulsion toward despotism. Any cost imposed on Putin is worthwhile.
Yet sanctions aren’t enough. The record is clear: Sanctions make a point, but they rarely achieve their goals. The American president can no longer pretend that economic coercion alone will do the trick. A grand strategy is required to make Putin’s invasion and possible occupation of Ukraine as painful for him as possible, to stop him from expanding the war, and to reestablish deterrence.
America’s economic, military, technological, and cultural power must be aligned toward shielding democracy in Europe and undermining the Russian war machine. Limiting ourselves to sanctions and diplomacy won’t make Putin think twice before demanding more of the West. Quite the opposite: He will brush his shoulder off. He will look for another target.
The first task is to assist Ukraine in its existential conflict. The flip side of sanctioning Russia ought to be providing additional financial aid to the elected government of Ukraine. Weapons should follow the money.
The president can declare that America will not recognize, nor will international organizations seat, a Russian-backed Ukrainian regime. He can prepare to support a Ukrainian government in exile and to supply anti-Russian partisans in occupied territory. Abandoning Ukraine to fight unassisted would be worse than a betrayal. It would make Putin’s life easier. It would enhance his personal rule. That is exactly what we do not want.
Second, Biden must abandon his energy strategy. Nothing less than a total reversal of his approach is necessary. Certain times require a reevaluation of priorities and a reorganization of values. The global crisis that Putin has set in motion is such a moment.
Putin tends to lash out when gas prices are high. Lowering these costs will not be easy. It will take time. And the only effective means of lowering the price of energy is increasing its supply.
Biden must embrace oil and gas exploration. America was energy independent just a few years ago. The American president must do everything he can to make us independent again. While he’s at it, he needs to blanket Europe with liquid natural gas (LNG) facilities, call on the German government to reevaluate its attitude toward nuclear power, and ask the U.S. Congress to subsidize new nuclear plants here at home.
Soliciting OPEC is a crutch. The green-energy transition must wait. Turn on the spigot of American oil and gas to drown out Putin’s energy weapon. Failure to do so would be another self-inflicted wound.
Third, Biden needs to ask Congress not only to pass the authorized defense budget, but to send him an emergency supplemental appropriations bill that dramatically ramps up military spending. Biden’s idea that he could minimize the role of the Defense Department and conduct foreign policy through the State Department and—God help us—John Kerry was always delusional. Now it’s dangerous.
Congress authorized, but hasn’t passed, a defense budget greater than the one Biden requested. Even this increase, however, amounts to a net cut thanks to inflation. America needs to spend more on defense—much more. This additional spending ought to include enhanced research and development as well as updating and expanding America’s nuclear arsenal.
America needs more of everything—more troops, more tanks, more planes, more ships, more drones, more UAVs and USVs, more ABM systems, more chips, and more connectivity. And we need it soon. Ronald Reagan grabbed the Kremlin’s attention with his defense budgets. Biden has not. He needs to mimic Reagan, not Barack Obama, if he wants to stop his presidency from sliding entirely into chaos.
Finally, Biden has an opportunity to reassert himself as leader of the Free World. Biden has sounded the right notes on democracy, but his actions have not supported his rhetoric. He is responsible for the extinction of democracy in Afghanistan. He could not stop Putin from attacking Ukraine. If he does not change his approach, he probably will watch China take Taiwan before his term is over.
Supplementing economic sanctions against Russia with military aid to Ukraine, a liberalized energy policy, and massive defense spending will help anchor Biden amid the authoritarian riptide. To press forward, however, he needs to make a robust case for democracy in multiple venues. He needs to rush reinforcements to NATO members such as Poland and Romania, the Baltic States, and Croatia, Albania, and Montenegro. And he needs to live up to his rhetoric of national unity by nominating a Supreme Court justice who will attract GOP votes and inviting national security officials who have worked for Republicans to join his team.
One of the reasons that the West misjudged Putin was our minimization of ideology in world affairs. We tend to believe that everyone is, in the end, like us—they think like us, they want the same things as us. But we are wrong. Putin and Xi Jinping have different belief systems, different values. And these divergent ideas motivate them to pursue horrific ends.
Every American president has a responsibility to stand for, speak for, and support the values of political and religious liberty at the heart of our experiment in self-government. The most recent occupants of the Oval Office have not quite lived up to the job. The egregious acts of Vladimir Putin offer President Biden a chance to turn things around. Pray that he seizes this opportunity.
Senior Biden administration officials pledged in sworn testimony to Congress they would robustly enforce sanctions on Iran. More than one year after these promises, Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) says there is mounting evidence the officials lied to Congress.
Nicholas Burns, U.S. ambassador to China, and Ramin Toloui, assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs, were both pressed during their Senate confirmation hearings late last year on Iran sanctions enforcement. In sworn written testimony to Cruz, copies of which were obtained by the Washington Free Beacon, Burns and Toloui vowed to uphold sanctions on Iran’s illicit oil trade and pressure China on the matter.
Since their confirmation last year, however, Iranian oil sales to China and other countries have skyrocketed, jumping 40 percent and sparking accusations that the Biden administration is turning a blind eye to sanctions enforcement as it works to ink a revamped version of the 2015 nuclear deal. With Republicans in Congress overwhelmingly united in opposition to a new deal, the promises by Burns and Toloui are under renewed scrutiny. Cruz and his colleagues suspect these officials never intended to uphold sanctions and misled Congress in order to win their confirmation.
“The new agreement President Biden hopes to finalize with the Ayatollah would open up vast new weapons markets to Putin and more energy for Xi’s expansion, all while injecting billions of dollars for terrorism around the Middle East and beyond,” Cruz told the Washington Free Beacon. “President Biden and Biden-Harris officials are feverishly appeasing Russia, China, and Iran—and those countries are then allying together to collectively undermine American interests.”
One senior congressional Republican aide, speaking only on background about the matter, said, “It’s increasingly clear that Biden officials will say and do anything to get confirmed, but then they all implement Biden’s fringe anti-American, pro-China, pro-Iran agenda. No wonder the administration has zero credibility with Congress or anyone else.”
Burns, who was confirmed by the Senate in mid-December, positioned himself as a sanctions enforcer who would pressure China to wind down its purchases of Iranian oil.
“China has long been importing Iranian oil, and the administration will continue to oppose Iranian sanctions evasion efforts, including those involving Chinese entities,” Burns wrote to Cruz on Oct. 20 in sworn testimony. “The administration will continue to raise this issue directly with the Chinese as part of its dialogue on Iran policy and I agree that, in general, this is a more effective path forward to address our concerns.”
“If confirmed,” Burns said, “I will engage vigorously with China to discourage them from taking steps vis-a-vis Iran that threaten our interests.”
Toloui offered similar assurances.
“I expect the administration to continue to oppose Iranian sanctions evasion efforts, including those involving Chinese entities. If confirmed, I will work with others in the administration to raise this issue with the Chinese as part of a dialogue on Iran policy,” Toloui told Cruz on Oct. 26, prior to his confirmation in mid-December.
Evidence indicates these promises were not upheld.
From 2020 to 2021, Iranian oil exports increased by 123 million barrels, or 40 percent, according to United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), which closely tracks Tehran’s armada of illegal oil tankers. China was by far the top importer and continues to purchase illicit Iranian crude.
In January, after both officials were confirmed, China announced for the first time in more than two years that it is violating U.S. sanctions by importing Iranian oil.
“Up until now, the U.S. has been notably reluctant to enforce its own oil sanctions against China, but the administration has also had an excuse not to act because ‘officially’ Beijing was not importing,” UANI officials wrote at the time. “In plainly declaring its willingness to violate the most critical aspect of the U.S. sanctions architecture, China is probing President Biden’s seriousness and testing American commitment to enforcing its own oil sanctions.”
The Biden administration has made clear that all sanctions on Iran’s oil sector will be removed as part of a new nuclear agreement, which is likely to emerge in the coming weeks.
Bipartisan coalition presses Biden admin to hold terror groups accountable
The Biden administration is ignoring a congressional mandate to impose sanctions on the Iranian-backed terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah for their use of human shields in combat, according to a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers.
Congress passed legislation in 2018 that requires the U.S. government to sanction every individual involved in the use of human shields, in which women and children are placed in harm’s way during combat to maximize casualties. Hamas and Hezbollah routinely employ this tactic during skirmishes with Israel to make it appear as if the Jewish state is killing innocent civilians.
“Despite overwhelming evidence, the Biden administration has yet to impose sanctions—as required by law—on the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah for their barbaric use of human shields,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.) told the Washington Free Beacon. “These sanctions are long overdue and will send a strong signal that the United States will not tolerate the use of human shields.”
Gallagher and a coalition of 22 lawmakers from both parties wrote to the Biden administration earlier this week to demand that it enforce the Shields Act, which mandated sanctions be applied on Hamas and Hezbollah for their use of civilians in combat, according to a copy of the letter obtained exclusively by the Free Beacon. While former president Donald Trump laid the groundwork for the law to be implemented in 2019, the Biden administration has yet to issue any sanctions on the terror groups or their leaders.
“While the U.S. government has taken other strong measures to combat Hamas and Hezbollah in recent years, it has yet to sanction Hamas and Hezbollah leaders for their use of human shields,” the lawmakers wrote in a Dec. 20 letter to the Treasury and State Departments, which are tasked with implementing the law. “Imposing such sanctions would make clear the U.S. government does not tolerate the use of human shields and would encourage like-minded countries to take similar measures against this war crime. It would also augment the Biden administration’s efforts to undermine Hamas and weaken Hezbollah.”
During the 11-day conflict in May between Israel and Hamas, the terror group used human shields. Hamas, for instance, placed stockpiles of weapons in apartment buildings and installed a military headquarters next to a kindergarten, according to information published by the Israel Defense Forces. Rocket launchers were also found positioned in a school courtyard and near civilian structures.
“Each rocket launched at Israeli civilians from a site amongst Gaza civilians was thus a double war crime, violating the law of armed conflict prohibition on targeting civilians as well as the prohibition on using civilians as human shields,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.
In one of the most glaring examples of Hamas’s use of human shields, it situated a military command post in an apartment building that housed journalists from the Associated Press and other outlets. Israel destroyed that complex after warning civilians to evacuate. The strike sparked outrage in headlines across the globe, forcing Israel to produce evidence proving that Hamas had taken over the building.
Yahya Sinwar, a Hamas leader based in the Gaza Strip who has close ties to Iran, said in May 2018 that the terror group has an expressed policy of using Palestinian civilians as human shields.
Hamas “decided to turn that which is most dear to us—the bodies of our women and children—into … a dam to prevent the racing of many Arabs towards the normalization of ties with the plundering entity,” Sinwar said.
“Imposing Shields Act sanctions on Sinwar and other relevant Hamas leaders would be an important step toward countering the extensive use of human shields against the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.
Orde Kittrie, a former State Department official and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, described the congressional letter as a “positive step forward” in combating Hamas’s and Hezbollah’s use of human shields.
“The extensive use of human shields by Hamas and Hezbollah in recent years is well documented,” Kittrie said. “Imposing sanctions would make clear the U.S. government does not tolerate the use of human shields and would encourage our NATO and other allies to take similar measures against this war crime.”
There will be no peace between Iran and its enemies
Elections have consequences, and one consequence of the 2020 election will be a return to the foreign policy of the Obama era that seeks to punish Israel, isolate the Arabs, elevate Iran as a regional power, and assure friend and foe alike that tough talk from American leaders is just that: talk.
Representatives of the United States will return to Vienna this week with the aim of lifting sanctions on an Iranian regime led by religious fanatics hellbent on acquiring nuclear weapons, dominating its neighbors, and eliminating the Jewish state.
Appeasement is never a slog, so it’s a mission they are all but certain to accomplish.
It also reveals the hollowness of the tough talk President Joe Biden offered up on the campaign trail, when he said he would not drop sanctions on Iran without first strengthening the Obama-era nuclear deal. His secretary of state, Tony Blinken, assured the Senate just weeks ago that he would not allow terrorism sanctions against Iran to be held hostage to any fresh nuclear talks. Of course these were lies and all sides knew it. Easy promises to make and easier to break.
Already, Iran envoy and friend of Hamas Rob Malley has lowered the bar: He told PBS News on Sunday that the United States would return to the deal if the Iranians agreed to do so. “Our goal is to see whether we can agree on a roadmap back to compliance on both sides,” Malley said, adding that the administration’s goal is to get on “the same page” as the mullahs.
The motivation for the coming realignment in American foreign policy appears to be a left-wing inverse of “owning the libs”—in this case, owning right-wing hawks, neoconservatives, pro-Israel Jews and their gentile allies. The Left cannot contain its glee and anticipation at the coming return to the flawed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The Biden administration’s—and America’s—all-but-certain humiliation seems only to have heightened their excitement. That humiliation will be painful, but it will do no more damage to the cause of regime change than it will to Iran’s nuclear program.
The Obama-era deal was a tragedy. The repetition of that history is farce, and whatever deal the Biden administration strikes will disintegrate as surely as the last. The Iranians may be delusional and paranoid, but their pursuit of nuclear weapons is not irrational. Their enemies are powerful and the current leadership faces an existential threat from Israel.
A new deal can’t change any of that.
There are many possible outcomes. The vindication of Hussein Rouhani, Javad Zarif, Tony Blinken, and Rob Malley as peacemakers is not among them.
Sanctions relief didn't bring stability in 2015. And it won't now
Back in September, Joe Biden described his Iran policy in an op-ed for CNN. After several paragraphs criticizing President Trump, Biden made an “unshakable commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.” Then he offered Tehran “a credible path back to diplomacy.” The terms were simple. “If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal,” Biden wrote, “the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations.” Sanctions would be lifted. And Biden is sticking with his plan. Recently Tom Friedman asked him if the offer stands. “It’s going to be hard,” Biden replied, “but yeah.”
Sure, Biden admitted, the agreement did not cover Iran’s missile programs, or support for terrorism, or human-rights violations, or malign behavior in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Absolutely, it contained a sunset clause that freed Iran of its obligations, and limited inspections to non-military installations. True, Iran maintained its archive of nuclear weapons research (until Israel revealed it to the world in 2018). And yes, the regional dynamic has changed. But these are secondary issues. “The best way to achieve getting some stability in the region,” Biden said, is “with the nuclear program.”
“Stability” is not how most people would describe the Middle East after 2015. Iran continued to launch missiles and send weapons and rockets to Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon, Shiite militias in Iraq, and Houthis in Yemen. Iran continued to hold captive U.S. citizens and harass and even detain U.S. naval personnel. Iran continued to harbor al-Qaeda’s number two, until he was killed earlier this year.
The economic benefits from sanctions relief went straight to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Its leader, General Qassem Soleimani, used this walking around money to sow murder and chaos before Trump ended his reign of terror last January. The nuclear deal did not bring order to a Greater Middle East where the Islamic State ruled large parts of Iraq and Syria, and where extremist ideologies inspired attacks in America, France, and the United Kingdom.
It is fantastic to think that the Iran deal stabilized anything. But the agreement has replaced the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as a kind of philosopher’s stone that, according to the liberal imagination, transmutes ethno-sectarian animosity into peace and toleration. In reality, the benefits of the nuclear deal were just as illusory as the promise of Oslo. Concessions did nothing but embolden the agents of terror.
That’s because negotiations were not conducted in good faith. One side, earnest and idealistic, was willing to pay a steep price to attain its aims. The other side wanted to pocket its gains while dissembling, diverting from, or otherwise undermining the spirit of diplomacy. This cynicism and double-talk isn’t a function of religion or ethnicity. It is a function of regime. Both the Palestinian Authority and the Islamic Republic of Iran are autocracies. Neither government respects the dignity and liberty of its own people. There is no reason to assume they would respect ours.
Recent weeks have provided remedial instruction for those unwilling or unable to acknowledge the reality of Iran’s outlaw government. On December 9, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif gave a Persian-language interview in which he said that “America is in no position to set conditions for its return” to the Iran nuclear deal, or JCPOA. Then he used anti-Semitic slang to express his support for Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “popular referendum” that would decide whether Israel should continue to exist. “We’re not talking about throwing the k—s into the sea, or about a military attack, or about suicide operations,” Zarif said. A simple up-or-down vote should do the trick.
No one in the English-speaking world would have known about Zarif’s comments were it not for the indefatigable translators at the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Needless to say, when his despicable language was publicized, Zarif claimed in a tweet that, ha-ha-ha, he was just joking. “I was mocking the allegation that Iran seeks to ‘throw the Jews into the sea’ and reiterating our solution is a referendum with participation of ALL: Jews, Muslims, Christians,” he wrote. In a favorite trick of demagogues everywhere, Zarif cast himself as the victim, and said it was really his critics who were biased and beneath contempt. How could anyone accuse Minister Zarif or his government of anti-Semitism? It’s not like his supreme leader denies the Holocaust and says Israel won’t exist in 20 years. “MEMRI,” Zarif wrote, “has sunk to a new low.”
It is Zarif who’s hit bottom. Around the time the foreign minister dropped the k-bomb, Iran executed the 47-year-old Ruhollah Zam, an Iranian journalist and dissident who had been living in France until Tehran’s agents lured him under false pretenses to Iraq, where they kidnapped and arrested him. Zam’s killing was intended to demonstrate that no Iranian who speaks out against the mullahs is safe. It also sparked an international outcry from the very people whose good opinion Iran needs the most. It’s “another horrifying human rights violation by the Iranian regime,” tweetedincoming national security adviser Jake Sullivan. “We will join our partners in calling out and standing up to Iran’s abuses.”
One way to stand up to “Iran’s abuses” would be resisting the temptation to reenter the nuclear deal. Using the sanctions leverage bequeathed to him by Trump, Biden might try linking not only missiles and terrorism but also human rights to a renewal of negotiations. Iranian refusal would not be a “failure of diplomacy.” It would be confirmation that Tehran has no interest in changing its ways. The mullahs understand that the second they relax their grip, or appear weak vis-à-vis America, their government will crumble. Paying them off to abide by an agreement whose terms they set is an evasion. Stability in the Middle East won’t come when America rejoins the JCPOA. It will arrive when the Iranian people put an end to the Islamic revolution.
by Adam Kredo • Washington Free Beacon
U.S. officials are fighting against a recently filed lawsuit by Iran in the International Court of Justice, or ICJ, that seeks to block the imposition of harsh new sanctions on Iran by the Trump administration, according to multiple U.S. officials who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon.
Iranian officials launched a formal complaint with the ICJ, a legal body established by the United Nations to adjudicate disagreements between member nations, against the United States earlier this month, alleging the reimposition of harsh new sanctions on Iran by the Trump administration violates international treaties created as a result of the landmark nuclear agreement.
Iran’s lawsuit is reportedly gaining traction at the ICJ, which sent an official letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this week urging him and the Trump administration to hold off on new sanctions amid an economic collapse in Iran that has ignited popular protests across the country. Continue reading
by Bill Gertz • Washington Free Beacon
The Trump administration on Thursday imposed economic sanctions on 19 Russians and two Russian intelligence agencies for their role in the 2016 election meddling and costly cyber attacks and penetrations.
The Russian spy agencies included the Federal Security Service and the GRU military intelligence service, along with six GRU officers.
No FSB officers were named in the Treasury Department list of sanctioned Russians, although 13 Russians indicted last month in a separate action, were named.
The Russians are linked to the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg operation that used social media to interfere with the presidential election.
Government officials did not say whether the Internet Research Agency was a front organization for the Russian government.
Officials also revealed that Russian cyber actors conducted reconnaissance into industrial control systems related to the U.S. electrical grid in a bid to obtain sensitive information that could be used in future attacks aimed at shutting down power networks. Continue reading
Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), along with Reps. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Elliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, had been trying to craft a nonbinding House resolution calling for more punitive measures against the Islamic Republic.
The resolution called for Iran to allow “including no-notice inspections of all suspect sites, including military facilities, and full access to all Iranian personnel, scientists and technicians associated with Iran’s nuclear program” by International Atomic Energy Agency officials. Continue reading
by Adam Kredo
Economic sanctions on Iran have failed in their “principal objective” of preventing Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons, according to a nonpartisan study by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).
Sanctions “have not stopped Iran from building up its conventional military and missile capabilities, in large part with indigenous skills,” according to the report, which was released earlier this week. Continue reading