Ali Khamenei in Nowruz

The Biden Administration’s Reckless Re-engagement with Iran

It is often lamented in Washington that protests in Iran happen all the time but eventually dissipate and disappoint. Those wondering why this happens might look toward the White House. At a time when the Islamic Republic is on the back foot against the Iranian people, the administration of President Joe Biden is about to strengthen it by releasing a third of Iran’s state budget in cash — violating every principle it claims to stand for. This prospective agreement exposes all the talk about support for democracy, support for Ukraine, and friendship with Israel as baloney.

The agreement would trade cash for hostages and a uranium-enrichment freeze. As a gesture of goodwill, under the guise of humanitarian assistance, the administration has already released to Iran $2.67 billion in frozen assets that had been held in Iraq. The prospective deal, reportedly, will release up to an additional $24 billion in exchange for the Islamic Republic’s freeing three Iranian-American hostages and pausing its accumulation of 60 percent enriched uranium.

Any kind of support for the Islamist regime helps prop it up at a time when its end seems to be in sight — which is the key reason that the regime is open to this deal. Its security forces, including the Islamic Revolution’s Guardians Corps (IRGC; usually, and imprecisely, translated as “Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps”), are in disarray. The signs of discontent among the rank and file have been there for some time, but a leaked memorandum of a conversation among the senior leaders of the guards and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei confirmed these suspicions. Reading through the memorandum, one can be excused for believing that it is an honest assessment of the czar’s army in 1916. Commanders, one after another, complain about rampant poverty within their units. Speaking last, Khamenei tells them to stand strong, and that faith and financial accommodations would take care of those problems. Whether “faith” will help here is uncertain, but accommodations appear imminent.

Any new agreement with Iran would also come at a propitious time for Iran’s relations with one of its chief allies. The U.N. embargo on Iran’s exports of missiles will expire in October. Iran needs money, and an embattled Vladimir Putin needs missiles. It is no coincidence that the regime showcased its new hypersonic missile in anticipation of the embargo’s expiration. Whether the United States can trigger a snapback of U.N. sanctions remains disputed over its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal (a.k.a. the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), but the administration has refused to even consider this option — in fact, it withdrew the previous administration’s claim to trigger sanctions in 2021 — or ask a European ally, who wouldn’t face any legal hurdles, to trigger them. It is already known that Iran is providing drone weaponry to Russia in its war on Ukraine. So now, if you see Iranian missiles killing Ukrainian children, you can in part thank Biden’s renewed engagement with the Islamic Republic.

However much the president talks about his commitment to allies and friends, that commitment seems questionable in the Middle East. Granting Iran access to $27 billion will not increase the welfare of the average Iranian, despite the Department of State’s assurances. These funds will instead go into the deep pockets of the IRGC, further enabling it to inflict terror on the Iranian people and Iran’s neighbors, to violate human rights, and to repress a democratic movement. The result will be more Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad rockets pouring on Israeli citizens, more proxies of Iran undermining the fragile democracies of Iraq and Lebanon — or whatever remains of them — and more Houthi missiles targeting America’s Arab partners.

Read the rest at National Review.

Shay Khatiri is a Fellow at Yorktown Institute.

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