In the midst of the transition of power, names are beginning to resonate for the country’s main government agencies, and one of the most important is, of course, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). For that office, Biden’s choice has been William Burns, a longtime career diplomat who has served in both Democratic and Republican administrations.
The curious thing about Burns’ appointment is that he has shown disturbing closeness to Iran, especially in his foreign policy approach to the theocracy. For example, he severely criticized the mission where terrorist Qasem Soleimani was killed, calling it a “major strategic setback.” At the same time, his possible presence as head of the CIA – the Senate has to approve his appointment – is disquieting as it regards his role in the nuclear deal with Iran.
Who is William Burns?
According to his profile on The Indian Express, Burns would be the first career diplomat to take over as head of the CIA.
“Burns retired from the U.S. Foreign Service in 2014 and holds the highest rank in the service – that of a career diplomat,” the newspaper profile says. “Currently, Burns is president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a center for the study of international affairs and has previously served as U.S. assistant secretary of state. Burns has served five U.S. presidents (both Democrats and Republicans) in his 30-plus year diplomatic career.”
The man is a veteran, but with a focus on Iran that has been harmful to U.S. interests.
“Significantly, Burns led the delegation that held secret talks with Iran on the nuclear deal, which culminated in 2015 which is officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan (JCPOA),” reads The Indian Express.
As is known, by accepting and signing the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions imposed by the United States, the United Nations and the European Union. That, at least on paper, sounded pretty fair to all parties and, in fact, was one of Obama’s greatest foreign policy achievements. But the “Iran deal” turned out to be a failure.
Hemispheric security analyst and director of the Center for the Study of a Free and Secure Society, Joseph Humire, spoke with El American journalist Sabrina Martin, noting concerns that Biden will return to a foreign policy that harms the United States, just as he did in the Obama era.
Humire stated that “the problem wasn’t signing an agreement with Iran, but how to reach a fair agreement. The way that agreement was reached with Obama was very bad and irresponsible, with many gaps, giving many privileges to Iran and getting very little benefit and without any guarantee.”
“If Biden wants to retake that agreement, he has to do it better than in previous years, because the last one only led to more failures,” he explained.
Not a few voices are concerned about Biden’s election to his cabinet and government agencies. In the New York Post, Michael Goodwin, published an article in which he expresses the problem that Biden is too focused on old things, such as the nuclear deal with Iran or the Paris climate agreement. Both were buried by the outgoing administration of Donald Trump.
For example, Biden gave John Kerry the National Security Council. The official is the architect of the flawed deal with Iran and responsible for signing the Paris climate agreement. Two major mistakes by the Obama administration that Biden hopes to revive, his appointments suggest.
“The deal with Iran coddled and funded the murderous mullahs and their terror brigades while paving the way for them to obtain nuclear weapons. Biden, perhaps unaware of the changes in the Middle East over the past four years, has spoken of wanting to return to it,” Goodwin writes in his article.
Today, with the news that William Burns is the designated head of the CIA, the diplomat’s words resurface in an interview with the Foreign Service Journal in 2019: it was a “historic mistake” to withdraw from the JCPOA with Iran.
The Washington Examiner‘s article
While Burns’s mere profile is certainly disturbing, The Washington Examiner confirms the CIA chief’s closeness to Iran.
According to the newspaper, “A 2019 book by Burns, The Back Channel: A Memoir of American Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal, contained an entire chapter on ‘Iran and the Bomb’: The Secret Talks.”
Burns’ account explained some of Barack Obama’s early efforts to reach out to Iran and even went so far as to admit that “this faltering momentum… came to an abrupt halt when the June Iranian presidential election turned into a bloodbath,” as the Iranian regime suppressed opposition from Iran’s Green Movement in 2009. At the same time, he said that “the public response from the White House was initially lukewarm” and that “in hindsight, we should have … been sharper in our public criticism from the beginning.”
According to the Examiner, “Burns said that “Oman sent the new U.S. administration a series of discreet proposals about its willingness to establish a channel with Iran” over the years,” explaining that when John Kerry took over from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, after Obama’s victory in 2012, it was decided that Burns would “lead the American team” with Biden’s future national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, who would be a kind of “alter ego” to begin negotiating in secret with the Iranians starting in March 2013 in Oman.
According to the media, “Burns said that Obama called meetings in February 2013 to elaborate his approach” and that “in all my three decades in government, this was – along with bin Laden’s raid in 2011 – the strongest effort.”
After that, Burns revealed from Barack Obama that “secrecy would help prevent opponents in both capitals from stifling the initiative in its cradle – but it would carry future costs, feeding criticism and stabbing from some of our closest partners, particularly Israelis, Saudis and Emiratis.”
Then the current head of the CIA – in the absence of confirmation by the Senate – said that Obama stressed that he should “focus the talks on the nuclear issue through the back door” and recalled that the former president “was convinced that we would never reach an agreement with the Iranians without some limited form of domestic enrichment.” All this according to the information of the Examiner.
The strong criticism to the nuclear agreement
In addition to the lifting of sanctions, there are severe questions about the effectiveness of Iran’s uranium enrichment agreement.
For example, in 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel had obtained thousands of “secret nuclear files from Iran” that revealed “new and conclusive evidence of the secret nuclear weapons program that Iran has been hiding from the international community for years.
Trump echoed Israel’s documents when he pulled the United States out of the deal in May 2018.
“No action taken by the regime has been more dangerous than its pursuit of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them (…) In theory, the so-called ‘Iran agreement’ was supposed to protect the United States and our allies from the madness of an Iranian nuclear bomb (…) In fact, the agreement allowed Iran to continue to enrich uranium and eventually reach the brink of a nuclear explosion,” said President Trump. “The agreement lifted crippling economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for very weak limits on the regime’s nuclear activity, and no limits at all on its other malignant behavior, including its sinister activities in Syria, Yemen and elsewhere around the world.”
In an previous article on El American, the Cassandra Project and how the Obama Administration played a leading role in the global expansion of the terrorist group Hezbollah are discussed.
The Obama administration constantly torpedoed a DEA operation against Hezbollah -Tehran’s ally- so that it would not negatively influence the negotiations of the nuclear agreement.
Burns on Soleimani’s death
That Biden’s appointment to head the CIA was a key part of the negotiations for the nuclear deal is not the only concern; his approach, in general, to the case of the Iranian theocracy is overly critical of the Trump Administration’s policy in the Middle East and far more complacent about its performance in the Obama era.
“Burns has also criticized Trump Administration policies and condemned the assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and longtime head of the Quds Force. Soleimani was considered a deadly adversary by the United States and its allies, and was killed in a US attack on Baghdad’s international airport in January 2020. Burns referred to his death as a “major strategic setback” in an interview he gave to The Irish Times,” The Indian Express reported.
Regardless of how Burns’ case turns out and whether his CIA tenure is confirmed, Biden’s appointments indicate that an Obama-era foreign policy 2.0 will most likely be seen.