Negotiations in Vienna are moving the Biden Administration closer to rejoining the deeply flawed 2015 nuclear deal with Iran (the JCPOA), and convincing Iran to reverse steps it took to back out of the agreement in response to President Trump’s 2018 withdrawal.
The Biden Administration last week gave Iran a major concession when it quietly dropped sanctions against three former Iranian officials and two companies that traded Iranian petrochemicals. Biden officials deny this, however, and say they lifted the sanctions in the name of what the State Department calls “good sanctions hygiene”—a bizarre new euphemism for appeasing Iran.
Biden officials are certain also to deny the dangerous consequences of the much larger sanctions relief it plans to grant the terrorist regime. The goal is to revive the nuclear deal, supposedly to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons systems. In fact, the deal will not only boost Iran’s military capabilities but also help Hamas terrorists to rearm and stage another deadly round of missile attacks on Israel.
We saw this happen in 2015 and 2016 after the Obama-Biden nuclear deal lifted over $150 billion in U.S. and E.U. sanctions against Iran. Tehran used that money to send an estimated $100 million to its terrorist proxies in Gaza—Hamas and Islamic Jihad—and $1 billion to its terrorist proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran also sent its own troops and Hezbollah fighters into Syria, backed its Shiite militias in Iraq, and increased its military budget in 2016 by 90 percent.
President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the fatally flawed JCPOA, and his “maximum pressure” strategy of placing tough U.S. sanctions on Iran devastated the Iranian economy and made it hard to fund pro-Iran militant groups and political allies in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. This led to protests against the regime in Iran as well as in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon in 2020. It also caused Iran’s terrorist proxies sometimes to go without paychecks.
Most Iranian officials claim the approximately 2,000 Trump sanctions cost their economy at least $150 billion. One Iranian official contends the Trump action caused the regime $1 trillion in economic damage.
For Iran to allow Biden to rejoin the JCPOA, the regime insists the American president must end all of these sanctions.
Iran’s belligerent behavior in the region has continued despite the opening of the JCPOA talks in Vienna. The talks continue despite recent Iran-sponsored attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq. It is therefore certain that the massive sanctions relief the Biden Administration plans to give Tehran will fund another huge expansion of Iranian meddling in regional disputes, military spending, and terrorism.
Such an influx of cash to Iran couldn’t possibly come at a better time for Hamas. During last month’s attacks on Israel, Hamas fired over 4,000 rockets and missiles. While most of these missiles and rockets were made in Gaza, they relied heavily on Iranian funding, training, and expertise. This included Hamas’ newest weapon—the Shehab drone—similar to drones Iran provided to the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Hamas is currently trying to rebuild its missile and rocket arsenal with more advanced designs—an expensive undertaking that requires cash from Iran. Although Israel’s Iron Dome system shot down about 90 percent of missiles fired from Gaza, a large number of more sophisticated missiles and drones with advanced guidance systems—which Hamas currently lacks—will be much harder to defend against.
There are many reasons for Joe Biden to halt his effort to rejoin the deeply flawed JCPOA. It does little to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Tehran has already cheated on its commitments. Biden’s plan to grant over $150 billion in sanctions relief to Iran may lead to a catastrophic loss of life and destruction in Israel when Hamas launches a new barrage of rocket attacks.
Biden’s “good sanctions hygiene” will result in a lot of dead Israelis, and possibly dead Americans.