As the civilian death toll mounts in Ukraine and the world prepares for unspeakable crimes against humanity yet to come, the Biden administration said Friday it’s close to announcing a Russian-brokered deal with Iran that will flood the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism with billions of dollars and leave Tehran on the nuclear weapons threshold.
While the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was bad enough, the coming deal is even worse.
Much has changed in the years since the Obama administration entered the old Iran deal — an agreement that let Iran keep enriching uranium, developing nuclear-capable missiles and sponsoring terrorism in exchange for billions of dollars in US sanctions relief. A deal that would supposedly put Iran’s nuclear program in check and lead a radical regime to moderation failed to do either.
The Obama White House claimed the Iran deal guaranteed the most intrusive inspections the world had ever known, but only Israel’s Mossad found the evidence Iran was cheating — a secret nuclear weapons archive that the mullahs kept hidden before, during and after negotiating the Iran deal. That archive led inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN’s nuclear watchdog, to at least four previously unknown sites inside Iran. At three of them, the inspectors found traces of uranium.
The full extent of Iran’s cheating remains unknown. Inspections haven’t gotten any more intrusive; Iranian military sites remain off limits.
Russia has been a leading opponent of the IAEA’s probe in Iran for years. Since Moscow regularly breaks its own international treaty obligations — whether in the use of chemical weapons or the war crimes we see today in Ukraine — Russian diplomats work overtime to shield rogue nations like Iran and Syria from accountability.
The new deal takes Moscow’s side — flouting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, lifting sanctions and legitimizing Iran’s nuclear program without first demanding a full accounting of previous and current violations. Put simply, it is an agreement knowingly built on deceit that will encourage other authoritarian regimes to violate their international commitments.
Another important change since 2015: We know so much more about the ways in which key Iranian banks and companies finance terrorism. The Obama administration told Congress that nothing in the Iran deal precluded America from imposing terrorism sanctions on Iran. Congress, on a bipartisan basis, took that promise to heart and directed the Trump administration to impose sanctions on affiliates of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Today, the Central Bank of Iran, the National Iranian Oil Company and hundreds more entities are subject to US terrorism sanctions — not nuclear sanctions — due to indisputable evidence showing their involvement in financing terrorism. To lift sanctions on these banks and firms without any indication of behavioral change will be unprecedented. The deal will directly subsidize the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations — a win for another Russian client state, Syria, as well.
In January, 1,200 Gold Star family members wrote to President Biden urging him not to release any funds to Iran until the Islamic Republic first paid off the $60 billion in judgments owed to American victims of Iran-sponsored terrorism. To date, the White House has not responded to their plea. The deal may go even further and remove the IRGC from the State Department’s official list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations — not only making America less safe but weakening legal cases pursued by these and other victims of terrorism.
What must Iran do in exchange for $100 billion in sanctions relief, freedom from terrorism sanctions and a blind eye toward its nuclear secrets? Not much. Iran will be able to threaten the world at a time of its choosing since it can keep enriching uranium and developing long-range nuclear-capable missiles to menace the American homeland. And the infamous sunset provisions of the old deal remain in place — they ensure the near-term expiration (or “sunset”) of all key restrictions. This sets up a nuclear crisis as early as 2025 even if Iran abides by the terms of the new agreement.
That American and other Western hostages will be released as part of the agreement will be celebrated. That is, until Iran takes another hostage and then another, knowing the Biden administration will likely pay huge sums for their release.
The Biden White House will say it’s all Donald Trump’s fault. The Iran deal was working. Maximum pressure failed. It’s this deal or war.
None of that is true.
Iran was cheating on the old deal from the very start and using its benefits to destabilize the Middle East. Which is exactly what they will do again, thanks to the new worst deal in history, brokered by Russia at the Biden administration’s request. It ensures the United States will face an increasingly imminent choice of military action against Iran or accepting an Iranian nuclear weapon.
Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, served as a National Security Council official, deputy chief of staff to former US Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and US Navy Reserve Intelligence Officer. He was sanctioned by Iran in 2020.