October 22, 2023 | New York Post

Biden must reverse course on letting Iran sanctions lapse — or watch weapons pour into Gaza and Russia

October 22, 2023 | New York Post

Biden must reverse course on letting Iran sanctions lapse — or watch weapons pour into Gaza and Russia

Washington and its European allies just declined to prevent the expiration of UN missile and drone penalties against Iran.

That decision will likely spur more missile and drone testing, production and proliferation by Tehran — with direct implications for arming terrorist groups attacking Israel and Russia’s ability to wage war against Ukraine.

The Biden administration must rectify this own-goal and work with Europe to restore these critical embargoes.

UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which enshrined the 2015 Iran nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, contained a series of proliferation-related penalties and restrictions designed to lapse Oct. 18, 2023, a date both the resolution and JCPOA refer to as “Transition Day.”

Iran may now “legally” test or transfer ballistic missiles, in addition to importing and exporting platforms like drones and technologies that, per UNSCR 2231, “could contribute to the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.”

And 84 Iranian entities and individuals tied to Tehran’s nuclear and missile programs were freed from UN sanctions lists.

Despite the JCPOA’s two most important participants — Washington and Tehran — no longer adhering to the deal, the UN resolution remains in effect, which means the schedule for lapsing restrictions remains on autopilot.

Predictably, Iranian officials and government organs are gloating over their newfound freedom from UN restrictions.

Any “JCPOA participant state” — such as the United Kingdom, France or Germany — could have prevented the end of international prohibitions by triggering a UN Security Council 30-day process colloquially known as “snapback.”

The move would restore all UN sanctions that existed from 2006 to 2015, including the conventional-arms embargo that lapsed in 2020.

But instead of confronting Tehran’s support for terror across the Middle East and beyond, the West refrained from triggering snapback for fear Iran would further advance its nuclear program.

This underscores the success of Tehran’s nuclear-blackmail strategy, even without a nuclear weapon.

The Biden administration has presided over nearly three years of a self-defeating Iran policy, including choosing not to vigorously enforce US oil sanctions against Tehran, yielding sales worth more than $90 billion — revenues the regime uses to support its terror proxies, like Hamas, and proliferation programs.

Team Biden’s attempts to engage Iran in diplomacy have also failed to curb the regime’s unprecedented nuclear expansion, which by the end of 2021 provided Tehran with irrevocable technical progress.

In lieu of snapback, the United States and Europe hope to deter and penalize missile- and drone-related trade with Iran via their own injunctions.

The United Kingdom and European Union announced Oct. 18 they will retain nonproliferation sanctions against some 300 entities and persons tied to Tehran’s missile, military and nuclear programs that were slated for removal Transition Day.

America declared a new round of drone and missile sanctions against persons and entities supporting Tehran’s illicit procurement and production networks in Iran, Hong Kong, China and Venezuela.

And the United States, United Kingdom and all EU members but one were among 46 states that pronounced a willingness to interdict the supply or transfer of Iranian missiles and drones under a voluntary framework called the Proliferation Security Initiative.

While important, these measures are not sufficient to counter the growing proliferation radius of Iranian long-range strike systems.

Tehran can now more easily procure items for its weapons programs and directly fuel at least two major conflicts.

The regime can also further augment its ballistic-missile arsenal, already the Middle East’s largest.

Tehran is likely to abandon all restraint and sell Russia ballistic missiles to use against Ukraine.

Fortunately, it’s not too late for the administration to reverse course since the snapback mechanism remains available until October 2025.

It should work with Britain, France and Germany to trigger snapback and thereby restore critical UN prohibitions on Iranian arms transfers and ballistic-missile activities.

Politically, these blanket constraints provided broad cover for states to adhere to US sanctions while deterring those who might seek to engage in trade with Tehran.

The Biden team should also direct additional resources to key US export-control offices — including those at the Treasury, Commerce and State departments.

Given that the European Union does not apply sanctions extraterritorially and UN sanctions on Iran just lapsed, those agencies are now effectively the last line of defense.

It’s up to Washington to put Tehran’s drone- and missile-technology procurement and proliferation back in the box.

The administration must act before more damage is done and lives are lost.

Andrea Stricker is a research fellow and deputy director of the nonproliferation and biodefense program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Behnam Ben Taleblu is a senior fellow focusing on Iran.


International Organizations Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Missiles Iran Nuclear Iran Sanctions Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Nonproliferation Russia Ukraine