JERUSALEM — The new administration appears to be “oblivious” to the regional impact of reentering a nuclear deal with Iran, two Middle East experts told me in an exclusive interview.
We have long held that the No. 1 security challenge in this region of the world is Iran. And now we are waiting to see how the geopolitical fabric of the region is going to shift in response to the Iranian nuclear threat under the Biden administration.
Israel and her allies in the region – all on the frontlines of a nuclear Iran – are watching with concern as Tehran’s aggression has increased in the past two months with attacks on U.S. military bases, an Israeli ship and the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
Yet, U.S. President Joe Biden has said he wants to return to the Iranian nuclear deal, which former President Donald Trump pulled out of in 2018.
I have spoken with Democrats who are close to Biden. But now – nearly two months into the new presidency – I sought the perspectives of two Middle East experts who served in the Trump administration.
It was just a few months ago that Victoria Coates and Len Khodorkovsky were in the cockpit, helping to drive Middle East policy.
Coates, a senior fellow at the Center for Security Policy and former deputy national security advisor, and Khodorkovsky, former deputy assistant secretary of state, are both concerned that Iran is already taking advantage of what they perceive as American weakness.
“If you ask our friends in the region, Israel, Saudis, Emiratis, Bahrainis, everyone on the frontlines, including the people of Iran themselves, they will tell you what is the appropriate way to negotiate with the regime is – and that’s through strength,” Khodorkovsky says in this ALL ARAB NEWS interview.
As Khodorkovsky put it, the Biden administration has shown that they are “willing to indulge the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism in getting back into this fantasy of some deal that’s going to block their pathway to the bomb.”
“The original JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) didn’t do that. And from where I sit, I don’t see any JCPOA 2.0 doing that either,” Khodorkovsky continued. “What we’ve seen from the Biden administration is concessions, without the regime having to do anything, really. The regime saw an opportunity with the Biden administration to provoke the administration into opening up the negotiations again in a favorable way.”
Coates said the administration seems more intent on building a “monument” to international diplomacy rather than deal with the issue.
“The point of the maximum pressure campaign (sanctions placed by Trump) was to starve them of resources so they wouldn’t be able to pay for” a bomb, Coates said. “And the idea that the (current) administration is considering starting to unwind some of those sanctions to give them a lifeline … is really mind boggling to me.”
She warned: “The last time they had that, what they did was go on a campaign of violent mayhem across the region. And we’re still seeing the ramifications of that.”
For example, the Iranian backing of terror groups in the region. Coates called Hezbollah, which sits on Israel’s northern border, “the gold standard for Iranian proxies.” The funding for these groups is a direct result of not enforcing a nuclear deal and sanctions, she said.
“It’s the model that they’ve used and tried to export to Iraq and Yemen, as well as Syria,” Coates noted. “It’s an enormously serious problem… in terms of the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of rockets that they stockpiled over the last couple of years. That is precisely what Iran did with the money from the JCPOA.”
And perhaps what is most alarming is Khodorkovsky’s assessment that “the Biden administration seems more desperate than the regime” to get back into the deal.
“Unfortunately, the Biden administration is too willing to be duped again and, through its actions, it seems desperate to have a diplomatic success that they can claim, which really accomplishes no strategic objective,” he said.
“The (new) administration and Obama 2.0 team seem oblivious to the real impact of the deal,” he said.
Here is this intriguing interview in full: