The headline in the NYT of June 14, 2023, read, “US Seeks Informal Agreement with Iran.”
That headline was deceptive, perhaps deliberately. It claimed that the Biden Administration had been quietly negotiating with the Iranians, as the paper put it, “to limit Iran’s nuclear program and to free imprisoned Americans” when the opposite is true.
This deal, negotiated in secret in Oman, is more about Iranian blackmail than it is about stopping the malevolent military and nuclear progress made by Iran on many fronts.
This deal has the Biden Administration submitting to Iran’s illegal hostage-taking blackmail by unfreezing Iranian money from both Iraqi and South Korean banks, signifying a breach of the official sanctions imposed on Iran without any trustworthy Iranian commitment to stop their illicit nuclear military programs.
The amounts are given as almost $3 Billion from Iraq and an estimated $7 Billion from South Korea. That’s ten billion dollars in ransom payments by Biden to the Ayatollahs.
This deal, called an “unofficial deal,” de facto declares an end to the official sanctions against the malevolent regime in Tehran.
Let’s call this spade the bloody shovel that it is.
How can you have an official sanctions policy when the United States gifts Iran with ten billion dollars?
Further Biden-Iran duplicity. By framing it as “unofficial understandings,” the US Administration is not duty bound to bring it to Congress for approval.
They do not want this bad deal to be front and center as they head into the election period. If they did, it is likely to play out badly for them.
This deal is designed purely as a pre-election gimmick for Biden. The staged appearances of freed American hostages descending from planes bring them back from Tehran to freedom in America was planned back in the Spring of 2023 by the Democrat election spin-doctors to be a 2024 boost for a failing President.
Other Iranian conditions are troubling.
Part of the deal demands the United States not to bring punitive anti-Iranian resolutions to the United Nations or to the International Atomic Energy Agency for any of its nuclear activities.
It is clear to Israel that the Biden Administration will not make trouble for the Iranians at the UN prior to the Presidential elections in late 2024.
Even Dennis Ross, Special Advisor to Democrat Presidents, admitted in a June visit to Israel that Biden has no incentive to create a crisis with Iran, however essential that confrontation is. Ross said clearly that Biden only wants to concentrate on the Russia-Ukraine war and not get entangled with Iran in the lead up to the election.
As Ross put it, “They want to focus on Ukraine and Russia. Having a war in the Middle East, where you know how it starts but you don’t know how it ends, id the last thing they want right now.”
An Israel perspective on his statement indicates that the Biden Administration is incapable of chewing gum and walking at the same time.
The Biden Administration must be told clearly that, for Israel, the Iran problem is not a can to be kicked down the road until 2025.
By the end of 2024, and certainly by the Spring of 2025 when a new President will be in the White House, Iran will be a nuclear threshold state and the money gifted to them by the Biden Administration, would have made this possible.
It would also have strengthened its regional military grip by funding and arming its Islamic proxies, including Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, who are armed to the teeth with ever more sophisticated Iranian weaponry across the northern, southern, and eastern borders of Israel, as well as among the Palestinian population in towns and villages occupied by the Palestinian Authority.
The fact that this deal was a sidebar deal and has zero relevance to Tehran’s advance to a nuclear weapon was confirmed by Ali Vaez, the Iran Director to the International Crisis Group who said, “Nothing of this deal is aimed at reaching a groundbreaking agreement.”
It could, however, result in it being a “groundbreaking” agreement for Israel in the most catastrophic meaning of the word groundbreaking.
Israel has nothing against innocent hostages being released from Tehran prisons, but not if the price of this blackmail deal risks a regional war that would be more devastating than that between Putin and Zelensky.
The way to confront hostage taking is by confronting and sanctioning Iran at the United National Security Council and by instigating a prosecution at the international Criminal Court against Iran’s President Raisi who should have been brought there years ago for his role as the head of the 1988 Death Commission in which he executed tens of thousands of his own people. The world, certainly the region, is paying for this lapse of judgment.
Now we have the new bad unofficial Biden deal.
Israel cannot be seen as a tacit participant of this terrible deal by maintaining a diplomatic or public silence. It must speak out against the very real dangers this insidious side deal imposes on Israel.
The region expects to see more decisive measures taken by the US Administration against Iran. Anything else looks like yet another Iranian victory, a weakening of America, and a growing existential threat to Israel and the region.
Barry Shaw is the International Public Diplomacy Director for Israel Institute for Strategic Studies