Last month, the Department of Justice unsealed a case against an Iranian agent charged with plotting the assassination of former U.S. national security adviser John Bolton. In the alleged murder-for-hire scheme, the defendant attempted to pay operatives $300,000 to carry out the assassination on American soil.
This was not the first Iranian terror plot in the United States exposed this year. This summer, the FBI foiled Iranian operatives’ attempted kidnapping of Iranian American journalist Masih Alinejad at her home in Brooklyn. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is also reportedly a target of Iranian assassins.
What’s so brazen about these plots is that the Iranian regime carried them out while conducting nuclear negotiations with Biden administration officials in Vienna. Yet despite these obvious signs of bad faith, the White House keeps offering Tehran more and more concessions to accept a nuclear deal based on trust, not verification.
America knows from experience Iran does not honor its nuclear agreements, and restoring the 2015 nuclear deal will not put the nuclear issue back “in a box,” as proponents suggest. In 2018, Israeli agents uncovered an archive in Tehran with tens of thousands of documents that detailed the inner workings of Iran’s nuclear weapons program. These documents helped inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency uncover undeclared nuclear materials Iran was still hiding. Rather than cooperate with the IAEA, Iran is making it “extremely difficult” to gauge the status of its nuclear program, inspectors say.
Reviving some variations of the 2015 nuclear deal will not improve the situation. The Obama administration promised the deal would include “anywhere, anytime, 24/7 access” for the IAEA, but in the end, the agreement let Iran keep inspectors waiting for weeks before visiting suspicious sites. And the deal made Iranian military sites entirely off limits. Yet Biden’s negotiators are not fixing these fatal flaws.
Instead, the White House is offering Tehran extraordinary incentives to continue its charade of compliance. My colleagues at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies estimate that Iran will receive $275 billion in sanctions relief during the first year of a new nuclear deal. By 2030, that number will swell to $1 trillion, including hundreds of billions of dollars from oil exports. The influx of cash means that Tehran will have greater means to support its terror proxies across the Middle East.
In Lebanon, Iran pumps $700 million into Hezbollah each year. In Gaza, Hamas relies on Iran for technological know-how and arms supplies. Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which operates out of Gaza and the West Bank, likewise receives financial and military support. All three organizations are designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the United States, and all three can expect a financial boost should the nuclear deal be revived. Indeed, this was the case in 2015, when Iran’s military budget increased by 90 percent after the implementation of the Obama-era nuclear deal. Despite hopes that a nuclear deal will lessen conflict in the Middle East, it is actually opening the door for more war, not less.
Restoring the nuclear deal will also facilitate deeper relations between Iran, Russia and China. Since March, Iran has supported Russia’s onslaught against Ukraine in word and deed. Iranian president Ibrahim Raisi was among the first to congratulate Putin on the invasion, citing the “serious threat” that NATO expansion poses to “stability and security.”
Meanwhile, Tehran has continued to supply Russian forces with arms. This summer, Russian forces were training with Iranian drones, and last week, Ukrainian forces shot down an Iranian-sourced drone near the frontlines.
China has also provided critical support to Tehran. Beijing has continued to defy sanctions and import Iranian oil, invest in Iranian industry and engage in joint military exercises. Last year, the two countries signed a 25-year, $400 billion military and trade cooperation agreement to benefit both parties.
In the absence of sanctions, China may be all the more willing to cozy up to Tehran, especially if it gains access to lucrative investment opportunities in the energy sector.
After the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Biden administration is looking for a foreign policy success. However, when it comes to restoring the Iran nuclear deal, the administration should keep looking. There is no reason to reward Iran for a deal that only provides the illusion of containing its nuclear program.
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