Earlier today, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s status as a foreign-terrorist organization (FTO) is the final hurdle of the yearlong Iran nuclear negotiations in Vienna.
The Biden administration reportedly offered Tehran the removal of the IRGC’s FTO designation as well as terrorism sanctions in exchange for better behavior in the region. This is willful ignorance; the IRGC continued to test and use ballistic missiles after the 2015 JCPOA (just last weekend, it struck Erbil with 12 ballistic missiles). It has provided training and resources to terrorist groups across the Middle East, such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of terror.
If that’s not all bad enough, the U.S. stands to infuriate and alienate key regional allies and partners. Israel has called on the U.S. to reconsider concessions. The UAE and Saudi Arabia — both targets of Iranian-backed attacks — are also likely opposed to Biden’s Iran deal and are showing signs of alienation. As oil prices spike and Biden pleads with the Saudis and Emiratis to boost their production, he’s alienating them on Iran and pushing them into the arms of unsavory actors.
Israel has been vocally opposed to the Iran deal, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett saying that the U.S. is willing to pursue a deal “at almost any cost.” Bennett says that removing the IRGC’s FTO designation is an “outrageous demand” and that he is “very concerned.”
On Friday, Bennett and Yair Lapid, the foreign minister of Israel, issued a joint statement conveying their disbelief at U.S. concessions: “We refuse to believe that the United States would remove its designation as a terrorist organization.”
Israel is a likely critic of the impending nuclear deal. It opposed Obama’s 2015 JCPOA because of its lenient terms. Biden’s current deal would be dangerously weaker in terms of nuclear regulation, and it removes sanctions on terrorism that Obama was willing to keep in place despite the JCPOA.
The UAE is also displeased with Biden’s flimsy deal. Earlier today, the Jerusalem Post reported that some in the UAE are “in great shock” at the possible IRGC concession.
The UAE has been the target of frequent attacks by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. At the end of January, the UAE intercepted a ballistic missile fired by Houthis. A week earlier, the Americans and Emiratis intercepted another Houthi missile heading toward Al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi and the 2,000 American troops stationed there.
American negotiators’ willingness to engage with Tehran’s terroristic regime will likely alienate key partners and adversaries of Iran. Indeed, on Friday, Syrian President Bashar Assad visited the UAE, marking Assad’s first visit to an Arab country since 2011. This may signal the Arab world’s willingness to reintegrate Syria despite Assad’s atrocities. The purpose of the meeting was likely to discuss trade and security ties.
Ned Price, the spokesman for the State Department, said this was an “apparent attempt to legitimize” Assad and urged the UAE and other states to “weigh carefully the horrific atrocities visited by the regime on the Syrians over the last decade, as well as the regime’s continuing efforts to deny much of the country access to humanitarian aid and security.”
Last week, Price took a different tone regarding nations that support “atrocities.” He defended the Iran nuclear negotiations, saying that Iran would “fund proxies . . . fund terrorist groups” with “greater impunity” if it obtained a nuclear weapon. (The catch here is that the nuclear deal would still allow Iran to work toward a nuclear weapon because of weak uranium-enrichment limits. On top of that, the Biden administration is fully aware that Republicans will scrap the deal as soon as they have the chance, meaning Iran will be able to cash in on sanctions relief under Biden and then double-down on its nuclear program if Republicans prevail.)
Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, was on Fox this weekend discussing the alienating effect of the nuclear negotiations. He noted that American allies will try to “hedge” with different economic and military arrangements after an Iran deal to counter Tehran. “Hedging may be a way to send a message to Washington that its pro-Iran policy is going to have some consequences,” according to Taleblu.
Saudi Arabia, another frequent target of Houthi attacks, is also hedging its bets. The Wall Street Journal reported that Saudi Arabia is considering pricing its oil sales to China in yuan. Meanwhile, the Saudis have avoided taking Biden’s calls for more oil, incensed at his lack of action against the Houthis and his lenience with Iran.
Nations such as the UAE could start to look for friends elsewhere as American officials grant Iran’s every wish, weakening U.S. leadership and deterrence in the region.