Leer en Español
By James Phillips*
Extensive popular protests against Iran’s repressive regime continue with no end in sight following the Sept. 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman beaten to death by police because she allegedly violated the regime’s strict Islamic dress code.
Iranian human rights activists estimate that at least 201 Iranians have been killed in the nationwide protests and thousands more have been arrested.
While Iranians risk their lives to chant “death to the dictator” in street protests against the Islamic totalitarian regime, Iranian Americans now are demanding long-overdue changes in the Biden administration’s failed efforts to appease that toxic regime.
On Oct. 11, the National Union for Democracy in Iran, a nonpartisan Iranian American civic organization, unveiled a letter addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken that blasted the administration’s incoherent Iran policy, called for it to recognize that Iranians have adamantly rejected their ruthless rulers, and appealed for it to adopt a tougher stance against the clerical regime’s reign of terror.
The letter urged the administration to “reformulate” its Iran policy to make it clear that the United States stands with Iran’s people, not with their oppressors. It advocated promoting human rights and democracy by providing material support to Iran’s opposition, including financial support for striking workers and help in circumventing state censorship, as well as implementing new sanctions and enforcing old ones to hold the regime accountable for its crimes and abuses.
The letter also called for the firing of two administration officials involved in the stalemated nuclear negotiations with Iran:
“Recalling President Biden’s mantra that ‘personnel is policy,’ we encourage the administration to consider specifically whether the members of its Iran team—particularly U.S. Special Representative for Iran Robert Malley and his deputy, Jarrett Blanc—grasp the present reality of Iran and have the country expertise and ideological flexibility to adjust U.S. policy as the situation in Iran unfolds.”
The Biden administration, however, needs to do much more than reshuffle its personnel to rescue its floundering Iran policy. It needs to abandon its complacent mindset, ramp up sanctions on Iran that it has allowed to atrophy, and push back harder against Iran’s proxy attacks against U.S. troops and allies in the Middle East.
In short, President Joe Biden must recognize that his efforts to appease Iran’s dictators have failed and must move on to “Plan B.”
Biden Repeating Obama’s Iran Policy Errors
Although Biden came into office proclaiming that democratic values would be a centerpiece of his foreign policy, his Iran policy clearly accorded a higher priority to reaching a nuclear deal with Tehran.
The Biden administration sought to strike a deal with Iran’s brutal rulers over the bloodied heads of the Iranian people, just as the Obama administration had done after Iran’s 2009 “Green Movement” protests.
Although the Biden administration promised to negotiate a “longer and stronger” nuclear deal than the 2015 agreement negotiated by the Obama administration, any agreement reached through the current negotiations is likely to be shorter and weaker.
Not only would key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program lapse according to the original timetable set in 2015, but Tehran has acquired new technical knowledge about designing advanced centrifuges and fashioning uranium metal that will reduce the time it needs to build a nuclear warhead.
Although the nuclear negotiations in Vienna have paused, the administration remains committed to reaching a deal, despite the risks inherent in rewarding a hostile regime with billions of dollars of sanctions relief in return for nonproliferation commitments that the regime repeatedly has violated in the past.
Even worse, the Biden administration has turned a blind eye to serial evidence of Tehran’s bad faith.
The regime’s henchmen continue to hold American hostages, launch proxy attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria, and orchestrate plots to kill U.S. officials, including former national security adviser John Bolton, former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
On Oct. 13, Iranian drones provided to Russia were used to hit targets in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Over the weekend, U.S. officials confirmed intelligence reports that Iran also is preparing to provide Russia with ballistic missiles for use in Ukraine.
Yet the Biden administration appears to be much more focused on punishing Saudi Arabia for what it regarded as siding with Russia on oil prices than it is on punishing Iran for siding with Russia not only on oil prices, but also supporting Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and fighting as Russia’s ally to prop up the Bashar Assad regime in Syria, which supports a wide variety of terrorist groups that have killed Americans.
The administration’s neglect of festering security issues and preference for scoring political points by punishing an ally before the midterm elections are symptoms of a dangerously flawed set of foreign policy priorities that subordinate U.S. foreign policy interests to the political interests of the Democratic National Committee.
The more that Washington focuses on penalizing its allies and downplaying the threats posed by adversaries, the greater the risks it imposes on American citizens.
The bottom line is that the Biden administration continues to seek an illusory nuclear deal with a predatory Iranian regime that relentlessly massacres its own people and lies about it.
Such a deal would empower and embolden an implacably hostile menace while undermining U.S. national security and sabotaging the efforts of Iranians to free themselves from a totalitarian Islamic dictatorship.
*James Phillips is a senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at The Heritage Foundation.
This article is part of an agreement between El American and The Heritage Foundation.