Recent Tehran-backed Palestinian Hamas rocket attacks against Tel Aviv population centers serve as an urgent reminder that Iran remains a destabilizing security threat to Israel, the Middle East, and by extension, to America and our other allies.
One of Iran's obvious goals is to blow up last year's Abraham Accords between Israel and several Arab states which afford the best opportunity for Jewish-Arab peace in decades as a potential united front against Iran's designs for regional dominance.
With the Trump administration that midwifed the Abraham Accords now succeeded by the same cast of characters that negotiated the toothless Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — more broadly known as the "Iran Nuclear Deal " — Iran now sees a chance to advance that agenda.
Getting nothing for something
On the campaign trail, Joe Biden said he would rejoin JCPOA with other world powers on one key condition: "If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations."
Tehran, on the other hand, has declared that it wants all of its demands met before returning to compliance.
Although Iran has said it won't meet with the U.S. face-to-face until that happens, officials from the U.K., France and Germany, acting as intermediaries, shuttled between two hotels in Vienna to initiate indirect discussions which also included Russian and Chinese diplomats.
The Vienna talks reportedly addressed prospects for a quick return to JCPOA terms in return for lifting tough Trump administration sanctions on Iran. Not discussed was a big technical problem, namely that there is no way to return to the 2015 status quo because Iran has already enriched its uranium far too much since then.
According to Abbas Araghchi, one of Tehran's leading nuclear negotiators, Iran will soon begin enriching some of its uranium stock to 60% purity, closer than ever before to a 90% threshold required for weapons-grade material.
So far, the Iranians are unwilling to even discuss their ballistic missile program, or their support to proxy terrorist forces.
For a most recent example, Iran supplied Hamas militants with the designs and know-how to make the rockets launched from Gaza into Tel Aviv. In some cases, these were cobbled together from common materials such as pipes, castor oil, and scavenged spent Israeli munitions.
Other more advanced Hamas rockets — called the Badr-3 — appear to be based on an Iranian model, known as the al-Qasim, which has been used by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq.
The Badr-3 is less sophisticated than rockets used by Iran's own armed forces … the simple design is likely meant to allow groups like Hamas to build them.
So, what has JCPOA actually achieved?
Flash back to January 17, 2016, when the Obama-Biden administration secretly paid $400 million in extortion money to Tehran to secure the release of four American prisoners. Although the administration denied that the payment was ransom money, the cash was withheld in Geneva until the hostages were released from Tehran on a Swiss Air Force plane.
Altogether, the Obama-Biden administration paid Iran $1.7 billion, with second and third cargo aircraft shipments of wooden pallets stacked with Swiss francs, euros, and other currencies on January 22, 2016 and February 5, 2016.
The timing of those payments was notably suspicious. The first occurred on the same weekend that provisions which formally established the JCPOA with Iran were implemented on January 16, 2016. Once that happened, an Iranian cargo plane was allowed to bring the cash back home from a Geneva airport the next day, on January 17.
Incidentally, all this occurred soon after the humiliating spectacle of Iran's release of 10 captured American sailors in the Persian Gulf on January 13, 2016. This was just hours before President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address.
Nevertheless, the Obama-Biden White House took a position that such rogue actions should have no effect upon the Iran nuclear pact, essentially arguing that America and other parties should simply lower expectations.
Although U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 of the Iran pact "called upon" Iran not to build or test nuclear-capable missiles for eight years, Russia, which has veto power, has taken the position that the violations really don't count. As their ambassador Vitaly Churkin explained, "A call is different from a ban because you cannot violate a call."
Perhaps Russia's generous leniency on the matter becomes more understandable given that they then negotiated a separate deal of their own … a more than $8 billion Iranian purchase of Russian fighter jets, other aircraft, and helicopters.
Together with the $1.7 billion in U.S. taxpayer extortion payments and at least $150 billion of sanction money released by the JCPOA, Tehran can now well afford those purchases.
Following that less-than-auspicious beginning, Tehran has been very busy putting these JCPOA gifts to bad uses.
As I previously reported in this column, in addition to supporting Palestinian Hamas, Lebanese Hezbollah, and other Middle East terrorist groups, Iran is also known to have been providing financing for North Korea's nuclear military program in return for missile technology over at least the past two decades.
So, indeed, what has JCPOA achieved?
It has funded Middle East Mullah proxy exploits, allowed Tehran to continue to enrich uranium while restricting access to U.N. weapons inspectors, and has ignored Iran's ballistic missile development program altogether.
Dangers of Desperate Diplomacy
As reported by the Associated Press, the Biden administration is considering a near wholesale rollback of "some of the most stringent Trump-era sanctions" imposed on Iran in a bid to get the Islamic Republic to return to compliance with JCPOA.
It's hardly encouraging that, as described by State Department spokesman Ned Price, "Any return to the JCPOA would require sanctions relief, but we are considering removing only those sanctions that are inconsistent with the JCPOA."
Given past JCPOA history, this gives them enormous latitude.
Nor is there any reason to expect a different outcome with any Biden administration JCPOA redux.
The U.S. negotiating team is being headed by Iran envoy Robert Malley who helped craft the original JCPOA as a member of Obama's National Security Council. Malley is known as a great supporter of "diplomacy" over sanctions or military actions, and he has an obvious vested interest in restoring the original terms.
The Mullahs must already be madly mulling over future malevolent Middle East mayhem to monetize with more cargo pallets of American taxpayer money.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture and the graduate space architecture program. His latest of 10 books, "What Makes Humans Truly Exceptional," (2021) is available on Amazon along with all others. Read Larry Bell's Reports — More Here.
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