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The Biden administration has failed to advance a coherent strategy of engaging with Iran, focusing on resurrecting the nuclear deal signed under former President Obama as the country moves closer to nuclear weapons capability and assists Russia during its invasion of Ukraine.
“Iran is on the cusp of acquiring nuclear weapons,” James Phillips, senior foreign policy fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Fox News. “They already have enough enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb in a few weeks.”
Phillips’ warning sounds like President Biden traveled to the Middle East last week, in part to respond to the growing security threat Iran poses to the region. The trip took place shortly before the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to Iran, which indicates the strengthening of ties between the two countries as Russia’s war with Ukraine continues.
Russian invasion of Ukraine was quickly denounced by Biden, who took the lead in punishing the Kremlin with sanctions designed to cripple its economy and isolate it from the rest of the world. The White House has also led a worldwide effort to support Ukraine militarily, sending billions of dollars in military and humanitarian aid to help defend against Russian aggression.
However, the US has taken little concrete action to deter Iranian efforts to help Russia or destabilize the country. Middle EastPhillips blames this on the administration’s efforts to revive the Obama-era Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.
Critics have accused members of the Biden administration, some of whom previously served in the Obama administration, of trying to revisit the deal in order to preserve the former president’s legacy.
“Many in the Biden administration see a nuclear deal with Iran as an outdated item dating back to their days in the Obama administration and seem ready to throw the United States into a pact with Iran that is even worse than the original one. “Rep. Lee Zeldain, RN.Y. wrote earlier this year in an op-ed for The Hill.
Zeldin argued that another flaw in the current administration’s push for a deal is that any present treaty must be ratified by Congress, making the pact Biden is working on optional for any future administrations.
Observers say the administration’s lack of clarity was shown when it floated the idea of going back to the Iran nuclear deal as a way to lower gas prices at the gas station.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman recently introduced the return of the deal as a way to support world oil supply. “They will get relief,” she said. “They will improve their economy and sell their oil again, and the world needs their oil so they can get a good price for it. It’s all in their interest.”
However, little has been done to reduce Iranian aggression, even as the country continues to support the Russian war effort. Earlier this month, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said intelligence indicates Iran has already sent or was close to sending “hundreds” of unmanned aerial vehicles, including combat-ready drones, to Russia to help with military operations in Ukraine. .
Iran, which over the past two decades has developed a sophisticated drone operation that has targeted U.S. missile defense systems and Saudi oil refineries, is expected to train Russian forces on the proper use of drones as early as this month.
The move did not go unnoticed by Republican lawmakers, who urged the administration to act more forcefully against Iran.
“Iranian UAVs had already destabilized the Middle East through attacks from Iran and its proxies before Iran expanded its malign activities to help Russia wage an unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine,” he said. This Fox News was told by Michael McCall, Texas, a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives. “We cannot tolerate these two malevolent actors working together against the security and stability of the world. That’s why I introduced the bipartisan Stop Iranian Drones Act, which clarifies that US sanctions on Iran’s conventional proliferation include UAVs.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida, called the Biden administration’s policy of “giving in” to the “terrorist regime” that would “accelerate its plans to achieve nuclear status.”
“The ayatollah is fueling Putin’s war machine and plans to contribute to the deaths of countless innocent Ukrainians,” Rubio told Fox News. “Instead of imposing congressional sanctions on Iran’s drone program, the administration continues to pursue the disastrous nuclear deal with Tehran.”
“The Biden administration has painted itself into a corner over sanctions on Iran,” Phillips said. “They grossly underestimated the leverage it would take to get another nuclear deal out of Iran…they missed the pedal on the maximum pressure sanctions strategy that the Trump administration has adopted.”
Phillips argued that the Biden administration is “politically inconvenient” policy transfer from the Trump administration, leaving themselves in a difficult position to punish Iran with sanctions or a real military threat in response to proxy attacks against US forces in the region.
However, Robert Einhorn, a senior foreign policy fellow at the Brookings Institution, said there was little the administration could do about sanctions to manage Iran.
“There are so many sanctions against Iran that it’s hard to think of anything else that could be done,” Einhorn told Fox News.
Einhorn said the Biden administration remained focused on returning to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, but argued that the chances of a mutually acceptable return to a deal being successful were slim. Noting that Iran has “enriched uranium to the 60% level” and “accumulation of weapons-grade uranium” for the country could be “a matter of days”, the Biden administration is likely to start focusing more on the pursuit of “security.” cooperation between Israel and its Arab neighbors “to protect against encroachment by Iran and its puppets”.
“It is all the more important that the United States and its regional partners develop a very strong containment strategy for Iran, and I think the Biden administration is now recognizing that,” Einhorn said. “While he seeks to return to the JCPOA, he is hedging his bets and admits that even if a return to the JCPOA occurs, it will be important to keep Iran, Iran’s regional proxies, from acting inconsistently with US contributions and priorities.”
Biden did devote part of his trip to Israel last week to trying to bolster Abraham Accordsthe Trump-era attempt to bring Israel closer to Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, and an attempt to strengthen cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
However, Phillips argued that the administration did not do enough by pointing to non-compliance with sanctions against Iran that are still in place.
“The administration has turned a blind eye to Chinese imports of sanctioned Iranian oil and has only recently stepped up its efforts to punish Chinese refiners and smugglers who make big money from owning Iranian oil,” Phillips said. “But they should have done it from day one… I think they really missed the mark by taking the pressure off Iran.”
He warned that the consequences of failing to confront Iran would be dire, arguing that the country is “closer than ever to building a nuclear weapon.” Phillips argued that to combat this, sanctions alone would not be enough to contain Iran.
“Sanctions alone will not stop Iran’s nuclear program any more than they stopped North Korea’s,” he said. “What will deter Iran is the credible threat of an effective use of force.”
Phillips argued that while Iran believes that the US is lip service to military retaliationthey rarely back up words with action.
“This only increases Iran’s leverage in the negotiations,” he said.
Instead, he said that the next time Iran uses one of its proxies to attack US troops or interests in the region, the US should show Iran that it is ready to use force to protect its interests.
“The US needs to respond decisively, not just turn the other cheek,” Phillips said. “In the Middle East, if you turn the other cheek, you will be slapped on the other cheek many times.”
Louis Casiano of Fox News contributed to this report.