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A US Confession: We Failed With Iran

A US Confession: We Failed With Iran

Friday, 2 December, 2022 - 11:15
Elias Harfoush
Lebanese writer and journalist

The recent statements that Robert Malley made regarding the nuclear deal negotiations with Iran should come as no surprise. Since Biden came to office, the current administration has had its sights on reviving the deal that Donald Trump had buried. However, as Malley has said himself, diplomacy does not always bring results. With the current negotiations potentially faltering after a long series of rounds of negotiation held in the luxurious Palais Coburg in Vienna, Malley has said that all options are on the table.

However, what is surprising is that speaking openly about the current impasse is simultaneously a declaration of the failure of the current administration’s policy. It also shows that the theory that Malley- a conflict resolution expert keen on appeasing the political movements and parties that do not always support US policy- has followed is misguided. In fact, a figure like Malley, in the position he is in, coming to this conclusion means that the foundations on which the Biden administration’s Iran policies were not sound since the beginning.

This policy was built on a strange framework for prioritizing ties with other countries, based on wishful thinking. Indeed, the Biden administration bet that showing Iran good faith would change the latter’s behavior, both domestically (in terms of how it treats its citizens) and internationally, concerning armament and interfering in the affairs of the countries of the region, which has been a pillar of the regime that has always been determined to “export the revolution.”

As he wrote in an article he published on CNN’s website in September 2020, two months before the presidential election that propelled him to the White House, Biden believed there was “a smarter way to be tough on Iran.”

In a "New York Times" interview with the American journalist Thomas Friedman a week after his election, Biden criticized Trump’s Iran policy. He made two points. First, he claimed that withdrawing from the deal allowed Iran to enrich Uranium at higher levels, rendering its nuclear program a graver threat to its neighbors and US interests. Second, he asserted that the decision to withdraw from the deal isolated Washington from its allies, who refused to follow its lead and withdraw as well. He then went on to tell Friedman that he understands why Iran’s neighbors, especially the Gulf states, are apprehensive about a return to the policy appeasement pursued by Barack Obama, who totally ignored them despite that they are the countries closest to and most threatened by his policy. Biden promised that his administration, on the other hand, would give them a seat at the negotiating table this time around.

However, the negotiations eventually resumed without the regional allies of the US, and their positions on the policies of Iran were not taken into consideration. On the contrary, the US pulling back from countries like Iraq, Syria and Lebanon strengthened Iran’s influence in these countries, allowing Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to boast of “victories” in these countries despite the billions spent by the US.

Iran’s resultant triumphalism pushed it to raise the bar, adding the removal of the IRGC from US terror lists to its demands, which froze the negotiations between the two countries.

Moreover, Iran did not commit to ending its nuclear program or freezing its Uranium enrichment- a fact confirmed International Atomic Energy Agency, which said has recently asserted that Iran is enriching Uranium at 60 percent in its Fordow Plant. This level of enrichment is close to that needed to produce a nuclear weapon. In a joint statement by Britain, France and Germany (part of the P5+1 negotiating with Iran), the Agency said that this step cannot be justified if the intention to use it for “peaceful purposes”.

However, Tehran sees nuclear armament as a means for strengthing its position in its clash with the powers of “global arrogance” led by the US. In this frame, its supposed battle against the US and Western states is Iran’s only concern. Any opposition is automatically accused of acting as arms for foreign forces being played by the US. The regime ignores the fact that the protests are directed at domestic policies and the behavioral norms imposed on society. The response to Mahsa Amini’s murder and the killing of over 300 citizens attests to this. Instead of turning his attention to the domestic grievances that propelled the recent protests, Ali Khamenei congratulated the IRGC on having repressed the protesters after he had accused the latter of being rioters and terrorists who do not represent the people of Iran.

That covers the domestic side of things. As for matters tied to foreign policy, in addition to instilling militias loyal to Iran in neighboring countries where Khamenei claims he has achieved “victory” and undermined US interests, we also have the matter of Iranian drones. Iran uses these drones to support its militias, undermine stability, and terrorize residents. It has also been exporting them to previously unchartered territory. We saw this in Ukraine, where Iran intervened on the side of Russia against the Ukrainian people in a battle that is not its own. It did so to merely make a point, implicating itself in a war in a country that the “Iranian revolution” cannot be exported to.

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