Confirmation hearings in Iran’s Islamic Parliament for the cabinet of President Ebrahim Raisi recently concluded. Raisi’s candidate for Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdullahian made his case before the members, stating that unlike his predecessor Mohammad Javad Zarif, his Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) will not be a "Ministry of JCPOA," referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal.
He also contended that under him, the MFA will unconditionally support the "Axis of Resistance" against the presence of world powers in the Mideast.
The Axis of Resistance is essentially composed of terrorist factions wreaking havoc across the region with financial and logistics support from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Amir-Abdollahian was ultimately confirmed by the parliament to serve as the regime’s new Foreign Minister.
Meanwhile, Robert Malley, Biden’s top negotiator who is determined to revive the JCPOA at any cost, seems eager to rush back to Vienna and seal the deal with the regime. Talks have stalled since June ostensibly due to change in the Islamic Republic’s executive administration.
There are speculations that under Raisi, management of nuclear negotiations will fall under the regime’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC).
Members of the SNSC are among the most ideological and militant personalities in the Islamic Republic’s power edifice, many of whom vehemently oppose negotiations with the U.S. and restoration of the JCPOA.
There are other issues that challenge Malley and Biden’s fervent plan to return to the JCPOA.
Earlier this month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that the regime has expanded its production of weapons-grade uranium to 60% purity.
This constitutes an irreversible advancement by the Islamic Republic that is impossible to ratify and reverse using the JCPOA, which was enacted in 2015. Amir-Abdollahian recently hinted that Iran’s return to the nuclear negotiations could probably take months.
This will buy time for the regime and allow it to escalate its nuclear activities even further.
One-third of Raisi’s cabinet, not to mention his Vice President, are under sanctions by the US or Europe for a variety of criminal activities or human rights violations. Raisi’s Interior Minister, Ahmad Vahidi, an IRGC commander, is wanted by the Interpol for his alleged involvement in the 1994 AMIA Jewish Center bombing in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.
Raisi himself is under U.S. sanctions for human rights violations, and subject to calls for investigation by human rights organizations because of his role in mass execution of Iranian dissidents in the summer of 1988.
Finally, in the context of the catastrophe in Afghanistan, the role of the Islamic Republic and the IRGC cannot be overlooked.
The Islamic Republic regime has undoubtedly contributed to this crisis by empowering the Taliban. Dating back to 2010, the IRGC Quds Force, a designated terrorist organization, has provided training and lethal arms to the Taliban. In the wake of Taliban’s invasion of Afghanistan, Ali Akbar Velayati, senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in international affairs, stated, "Taliban is a part of the Axis of Resistance."
Maybe Biden hasn’t been briefed on all this, but these are the characteristics of the regime he and his foreign policy staff will be engaging with when the negotiating team returns to Vienna.
In essence, sanctions relief for the regime will empower some of the most brutal and corrupt men in the Islamic Republic’s power apparatus, augment the regime’s capacity for human rights abuse, enhance the regime’s nuclear program, and finance the Axis of Resistance, including the Taliban.
This policy may please Biden’s progressive constituents in the short-term, but the long-term consequences of JCPOA revival and subsequent sanctions relief are no less dire than what happened in Afghanistan.
The same ideological think-tanks whose policy proposals shaped the debacle in Afghanistan have been recommending a hasty, unconditional return to the JCPOA.
The one-sided diplomacy simply amounts to appeasement of a violent regime that thrives on the "forever wars" Biden allegedly wants to rid the region of.
Before a second mishap seriously calls the administration’s competence and judgement in foreign policy into question and creates another humiliation for the U.S., Biden should consider his options carefully.
He and his staff should gauge whether rejoining the JCPOA is worth the scrutiny and criticism that may ensue and endure for years to come.
Bryan E. Leib is the Executive Director of Iranian Americans for Liberty. Formerly, he served as the National Director for Americans Against Antisemitism and in 2018, he was a GOP Endorsed Congressional Candidate (PA-03). He tweets at @Bryan_E_Leib. Read Bryan E. Leib's Reports — More Here.
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