It is deeply troubling that a Biden administration seems poised to ignore Israel’s life-or-death concerns about Iran and to instead precipitously re-enter the disastrous Iran deal, lift sanctions and exclude Israel from Iran deal negotiations.
In a New York Times interview with Thomas Friedman on Dec. 2, projected President-elect Joe Biden stated that, if Iran returns to the soon-to-expire Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Biden administration will re-enter the deal and lift sanctions. Of course, Biden would lose all leverage on Iran the moment he does so. Yet only after losing all his leverage, Biden plans to begin “follow on” negotiations with Iran, together with Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany, the European Union and Iran’s Arab neighbors, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Israel was pointedly excluded from Biden’s list of negotiating partners.
It is despicable that Biden would leave out Israel—the main target of Iran’s death chants and terrorist proxies’ rockets, and in the cross-hairs for perpetrating a nuclear Holocaust.
Biden is including among the negotiating partners Saudi Arabia, which Iran attacks and endangers. There is no legitimate reason for omitting an even more endangered Israel.
Moreover, Israel is one of the most knowledgeable nations in the world about the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program and the regime’s lies about it. Israel is informed, among other things, by the trove of 110,000 Iranian nuclear documents that the Mossad lifted from a warehouse in Teheran in 2018. The White House announced that these documents provided “new and compelling details about Iran’s efforts to develop missile-deliverable nuclear weapons.”
It is downright dangerous to exclude a nation so knowledgeable and most at risk from any deal with Iran.
It is also dangerous to exclude Israel when Biden included other Iran-deal negotiating partners that apparently have vested trade or other interests in Iran and don’t care if Iran blows up Israel, other Middle East nations, or the United States for that matter.
In October, Russian Ambassador to Iran Levan Dzhagaryan stated in an Iranian newspaper that Russia provided Iran with S-300 missile-defense systems and may also soon sell its S-400 missile defense system to Tehran.
Just this week, Russian Ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov falsely claimed that Iran never violated the Iran deal; called Israel one of the central problems in the Middle East; criticized the Abraham Accords; and falsely sided with Iranian terror proxy Hezbollah against Israel, saying: “The Israelis are attacking Hezbollah. Hezbollah is not attacking Israel.”
Moreover, in July, The New York Times reported that China and Iran drafted a sweeping economic and military partnership, involving “billions of dollars of Chinese investments in energy and other [Iranian] sectors”; the regular shipment of Iranian oil to China; and military cooperation, including “joint training and exercises, joint research and weapons development and intelligence sharing.”
Biden’s rush to discard common-sense negotiating leverage also endangers America, Israel and the entire region.
Under Biden’s “lift sanctions first, negotiate later” policy, Iran will have no incentive to agree to ballistic missile curbs; real inspections; extensions of the soon-to-expire fissile material limits and centrifuge limits in the Iran deal; limits on Iran’s support for Iran’s terror proxies; or any other needed restriction on Iran’s malign nuclear and non-nuclear activities.
The previous failure to properly use U.S. leverage led to the initial terrible deal. Sanctions on Iran were eased in the initial Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) in November 2013, almost two years before a deal was reached. In 2015, Business Insider wrote that then-U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry broke “classic rules of negotiation” in his eagerness to land a nuclear deal with Iran.
Notably, even left-leaning Friedman wrote, regarding Biden’s current plan, that it would be “unwise for the United States to give up the leverage of the Trump-imposed oil sanctions just to resume the nuclear deal where it left off. We should use that leverage to also get Iran to curb its exports of precision-guided missiles to its allies in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq, where they threaten Israel and several Arab states.”
The Iran nuclear deal was a terrible deal for the United States, Israel and the world, and was violated from the outset. The deal paves Iran’s way to a nuclear bomb, allows Iran to continue to spin thousands of centrifuges to enrich uranium, refuses to allow inspections of military facilities where nuclear weaponization is likely to occur and has early sunset clauses, to name just a few of its fatal flaws. Iran took advantage of the sanctions relief provided by the deal to increase its defense spending by more than 30 percent, as well as to enrich and embolden its terror proxies.
This situation changed after the United States exited the deal in May 2018. The current administration’s crippling sanctions prevented the Iranian regime from accessing some $50 billion annually; caused Iran to reduce its military budget by $25 million in 2019; deprived the Iranian regime of funds for carrying out its malign activities; and, as the U.S. State Department reported, forced the Iranian “regime’s terrorist proxies and partners [to] beg for cash, and … take austerity measures, even furloughing some terrorist fighters.”
A Biden administration would have a great opportunity to obtain a vastly improved deal if it continues to pressure and impose sanctions on Iran until a good agreement is achieved, and if it involves Israel in the negotiations.
Morton A. Klein is the national president of the Zionist Organization of America. Elizabeth A. Berney is ZOA’s director of special projects.
This article was originally published in JNS and can be found here.