There is evil in this world. This can be a difficult reality to grasp if one has the power to improve the world on a grand scale. President Biden and his team have that power. It must be so much more enticing to try to figure out a positive way forward than to acknowledge that, in some cases, there is no positive way forward.
As the menace of Hitler grew in the late 1930s, the majority of Americans remained staunchly isolationist, led by Republicans in Congress. President Roosevelt faced an uphill battle in passing the Lend Least Act, without which England would probably have fallen to Nazi Germany. Where would we all be if that had happened? Yet, most of America contented itself with the view that Hitler was Europe’s problem, not ours.
This was such a comfortable a position — until Dec. 7, 1941, when Hitler’s ally Japan attacked the US at Pearl Harbor.
It is similarly comfortable to figure that Iran is the Middle East’s problem, or Israel’s problem. Yes, it is difficult to face the fact that there is evil in this world — that evil regimes play by their own rules, not ours.
The Biden administration’s approach to a potentially nuclear Iran is badly mistaken. Evil is not acknowledged.
Evil? Yes. Iran repeatedly threatens to wipe an entire country off the map. That country happens to be Israel, but if a nuclear Iran were successful against Israel, G-d forbid!, can anyone realistically think that Iran would stop with Israel? Iran’s driving motive against Israel is its own brand of Islam which, if Iran successfully imposed it on the territory of Israel, would then be radically emboldened to do the same on all other countries in its reach.
Is this alarmist? Hardly so, given that Iran is already doing it best to achieve regional hegemony with its war in Yemen, its threats to Sunni Saudi Arabia and its export of terrorism to Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and elsewhere.
So no, I don’t think the evidence shows that it is inappropriate to be alarmed about Iran. Evil is real.
Now, at this point, even though the Biden administration is still young, it is easy to forget the administration’s initial policy for Iran. Biden believed that, given the radically intensified economic sanctions that Trump unilaterally imposed on Iran, the country’s leadership would welcome the accommodationist stance of the new Biden administration.
That stance was a re-entry into the Obama deal as it was, including its sunset provisions on Iran’s commitment not to pursue a nuclear weapon, and to allow inspectors to verify this. Biden said that negotiations to strengthen the deal would come later.
Since Biden’s original stance, two things have changed the entire Iran policy landscape.
First, Iran has refused to re-enter the Obama deal, has demanded sanctions relief in advance of . . . not of a re-entry to the deal, but even of re-entry into negotiations. Not to mention, Iran will not even sit in the same room with US negotiators, who have been reduced to pleading with Iran to consider a re-entry into the Obama deal.
It’s really quite simple, from Iran’s point of view. Why should Iran agree to another multi-year limitation on its pursuit of a nuclear weapon when it can pursue it without limitation, and also already enjoy the relaxation by the US of an admittedly few sanctions — a US that appears easy to browbeat into further relaxation of sanctions?
The second thing that has changed is the way America left Afghanistan. Whatever the different internal American evaluations of that withdrawal might be, the message heard abroad was loud and clear:
American is weak. American won’t stand up to evil, be it that of the Taliban or that of Iran.
So here we are some 11 months after Biden’s initial Iran policy. There are no direct negotiations with Iran. No substantive negotiations. No effective inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities (this, on the admission of the inspectors themselves). There is is no more nothing except American statements that can only be taken as meaningless, and toothless, by Iran.
For example, this recent statement by a US official:
“The world is prepared to support a mutual return to compliance [with the Obama nuclear deal] by both sides. The world is prepared even to engage economically with Iran and diplomatically with Iran. But for that, Iran has to show seriousness at the table and be prepared to come back in short order in compliance with the deal.”
Look at the first two words in this statement, “The world.” Which world? Officially, it includes all of the original signators to the Obama deal. But Iran is already doing business with two big signators, China and Russia, with or without a nuclear deal, with or without American sanctions.
In short, current American Iran policy is letting evil grow, just like American isolationism let Hitler grow.
Of course, this only increases the chances of war with Iran, not to mention calling into question all of the pious protestations by American presidents and politicians that they will never allow a nuclear Iran. In retrospect, it was only a nuclear deal that was talked up, never any true threat of actions against Iran, when it would have a lot less dangerous to do so than it is now.
The joker in the deck remains: What will Israel do?
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