April 16, 2024 | The Jewish Chronicle

The path that led to Iran’s attack on Israel was one of US appeasement

The Biden administration must begin taking the Islamic Republic’s threat to world peace seriously
April 16, 2024 | The Jewish Chronicle

The path that led to Iran’s attack on Israel was one of US appeasement

The Biden administration must begin taking the Islamic Republic’s threat to world peace seriously

To understand how we got to Iran’s attack against Israel last weekend, you have to look back at the policy of appeasement pursued by the Biden administration since 2021.

To begin with, his campaign pledged to re-enter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a deal signed during the Obama administration to restrict Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons, which President Trump had quit in 2018.

We then witnessed Iran escalate tensions to see what the US response would be. At every single turn, invariably, America’s response was offers of accommodation and a total lack of punishment.

In January 2021, between Biden being elected and taking office, Iran first crossed the threshold to create 20 per cent enriched uranium. A new president was coming in and they wanted to lay down a marker.

Next, Biden appointed Robert Malley, a well-known Iran appeaser, as a special envoy for Iran, continued to offer to go back to the Iran nuclear deal and took the Houthi militia in Yemen off the foreign terrorist organisation list. What did Iran do in response? Appointed Ebrahim Raisi, the face of the Islamic revolution, the human rights abuser-in-chief of Iran, president.

So the veneer of Hassan Rouhani, the former president, and other moderate forces in Iran, were gone. Raisi filled his cabinet with sanctioned individuals and this terrorist cabinet said to America: “OK, if you still want to negotiate, come back to us.”

The United States went back to negotiate, even though Iran had ratcheted up their enrichment from 20 to 60 per cent high enrichment uranium, significantly closer to weapons grade.

The regime then installed more advanced centrifuges, got caught producing uranium metal, a core component of nuclear weapons, and started limiting the International Atomic Energy Agency inspections at different facilities.

All the Biden administration did each time was reduce pressure. Not only did it not impose sanctions, it eased the existing ones.

Amazingly, America became even less hawkish than the Europeans on Iran in some respects. What Iran learnt from all of this is that it can get away with anything. The regime can keep moving towards that nuclear threshold and still get offers of economic relief.

It was only the murder of Mahsa Amini by Iran’s “morality police” and the protests this sparked across the country that briefly halted the appeasement.

Last year, the US offered to open up spigots of money while allowing the regime to trade oil freely with China. In exchange, they asked Iran to stay below the 90 per cent weapons-grade uranium threshold, to not send short range ballistic missiles to Russia and to stop attacking Americans in the Middle East.

Iran came into a major windfall as oil exports rose above two million barrels per day for the first time since the JCPOA period, and $6 billion was released to them as part of a ransom payment to free five American hostages.

Then October 7 hit. What was the response of the US, the UK, and everyone else? Nothing. We downplayed Iran’s connection to Hamas and insisted the Islamic regime was not behind this attack.

A UN Security Council embargo on missile sales to Iran was due to expire ten days after October 7. All the UK, France and Germany, with US support, had to do was send a letter to the Security Council to trigger a snapback sanctions resolution that would have stopped that embargo from expiring. But they didn’t.

Perhaps they fear escalation. But again, what is Iran learning? A $10 billion sanctions waiver allowing the Iraqi government to buy energy from the regime got renewed in November a month after October 7 and it got renewed again last month.

Meanwhile, three Americans have been killed in Jordan by Iran-backed militias, missiles are now raining down on the Red Sea from the Houthis, and Israel is being attacked from Lebanon.

International pressure is applied to Israel while we see ever greater escalation from Iran. Over the past three years, we have allowed an arc of accommodation that has emboldened the Islamic Republic and increased the chances of regional war. It must end now.

Rich Goldberg is the former director for Countering Iranian Weapons of Mass Destruction for the White House National Security Council and a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He appears with Jake Wallis Simons on the latest episode of The Jewish Chronicle Israel War Briefing podcast.


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