[guest post by JVW]
For those following the Iran nuclear talks in Vienna, the Biden administration’s negotiations have been a feat of concession and weakness. The deal on the table, which is being packaged as a return to the (also weak) 2015 JCPOA, is actually much weaker; it gives Iran a legitimate, quicker path to a nuclear weapon and frees up billions in sanctions relief. Until quite recently, this shameful capitulation of a deal has evaded the scathing headlines it deserves. But now, as the most shocking details come to light, the Biden administration will have to answer for its strategic failure and suffer the political consequences should the deal go through.
After a year of negotiations, the details of the agreement are mostly finalized and a deal could be imminent based on Iran’s recent release of hostages. The final snag is the question over the IRGC’s terrorist designation. On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the “effort to revive the 2015 nuclear deal agreement now hinges on perhaps the most politically sensitive issue in the negotiations: whether to remove the U.S. terrorism designation for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.” The Journal reports that this contentious question could “cause a breakdown in negotiations,” according to senior U.S. officials.
And not a moment too soon. Reports are that not only did the Biden Administration offer the removal of the IRGC’s terrorist designation, but they began dangling this as a carrot to goad Iran into reopening the JCPOA immediately once talks resumed nearly a year ago, thereby reducing its value as a bargaining chip. Indeed, even sources who are generally predisposed to cut the Biden Administration a break appear to be acknowledging that the latest round of talks have been an exercise in absolute appeasement of the mullahs, with very little being gained by the U.S. other than more empty promises which Iran will almost certainly fail to keep.
Fortunately, it would appear that a bipartisan consensus is emerging in Washington against the Biden Administration’s concessions to Iran and Russia. Israel and the Arab countries vying with Iran for hegemony in the Gulf Region are also highly skeptical of this deal’s merits, so much so that both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are resisting President Biden’s request to produce more oil in a move that certainly looks like a protest against rapprochement with the mullahs. Unfortunately, this fissure with the Arab world — and yes, I know dealing with those thugs is no picnic — is playing right into the hands of both Russia and China, with the former still selling oil in Western markets and the later cultivating close ties with Riyadh and Abu Dahbi.
But, as we all learned seven years ago, there isn’t all that much that the Congress can do to prevent the Biden Administration from recklessly steaming forward. Naturally a revised JCPOA, like its predecessor, will not be ratified by the Senate as a formal treaty, and stands a strong likelihood of being revoked if and when a Republican President is inaugurated. Still, Iran will treat the agreement like a binding treaty, as will nations which do not understand the intricacies of U.S. Constitutional law and separation of powers. Andrew McCarthy lays out an multi-level case for how Congress can reassert its role in foreign policy by insisting that the new agreement be authorized legislatively as befitting new law. It strikes me as a fanciful notion, inasmuch as even those Democrats who oppose a new JCPOA will likely be loathe to embarrass the Biden Administration in an election year by joining Republicans to swat down his one foreign policy “achievement” in Congress.
At this point I think the best any of us can hope for is that Russia — who may be even more chaotic and disorganized than we are — shoots itself in the foot by demanding too many concessions from the U.S., more than even the feeble and weak Biden Administration is willing to grant. Thus do we find ourselves yet again in a disaster of our own making.