Republican Senate should thwart US return to JCPOA
As former Vice President Joe Biden begins his transition into the White House ahead of January’s inauguration day, he seems determined to begin his four-year legacy by revising substantial decisions made by his predecessor, President Donald Trump.
On May 8, 2018, Trump announced one of the most significant decisions of his presidency: Terminating the US participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran and reimposing sanctions that had been lifted under the 2015 deal, which was reached during former President Barack Obama’s time in office.
When you search Google for “Obama and the JCPOA,” the first result that appears is a link to Obama’s White House archive with the title, “The Historic Deal That Will Prevent Iran from Acquiring a Nuclear Weapon.” Indeed, the agreement was historic and important to its primary beneficiary, the clerical regime in Tehran.
The JCPOA — also known as the Iran nuclear deal — empowered Iran’s ambitions for regional dominance and led to the removal of the name of Qassem Soleimani, then-commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, from the UN sanctions list.
Under the agreement, Tehran gained the resources to rebuild its arsenal, sponsor terrorism, and carry out attacks against the US and its allies through proxy militias in the region. Moreover, the Obama administration shipped $1.7 billion in cash to Iran in exchange for four American citizens who were being held hostage by the regime.
The deal did not stop the Iranian ballistic missile program and did not prevent rockets from targeting US troops in Iraq or falling into Israel.
You may or may not agree with Trump’s foreign policy, but the president's decision to withdraw from the infamous deal was brave and necessary for US national security, as well as for the protection of its allies in the Middle East.
When the Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison expressed their outrage and disapproval of this move, it meant that Trump’s decision was a victory for the US and the Middle East over the repressive and malign Iranian regime.
Trump’s decision to withdraw from the infamous deal was brave and necessary for US national security.
Biden’s introduction of his first slate of picks for key Cabinet posts sends a clear signal that America is getting ready for a third term of Obama’s foreign policy. Several of them have been associated with Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Bill Clinton or Biden himself. Names like Antony Blinken for secretary of state, Alejandro Mayorkas for secretary of homeland security, and Jake Sullivan for national security adviser remind us of the failed policies regarding Iran, Iraq, Daesh, Libya and China.
During his presidential election campaign, Biden continued to criticize his predecessor’s policy on Iran, implying that his administration would favor a return to the JCPOA, which is what the Democrats would like him to do.
Technically, it is not up to the Biden administration whether to go back to the negotiating table without the inclination of the Iranian side. However, the former vice president wrote in September that he would offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy. “If Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the United States would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations,” he emphasized.
The good news is that Iran will be holding its own presidential elections in June 2021, ending President Hassan Rouhani’s second term, which would limit the time available for the two leaders to make any significant progress. With that in mind, the new government in Iran will most likely be more difficult to negotiate with.
The Republicans should never forget that, while the Democrats celebrated the death of Osama bin Laden, they strongly condemned the assassination of Soleimani. However, the latter was also a ruthless terrorist responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and Israelis, in addition to his victims in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
The Republicans need to understand that Iran would not accept new negotiations without compensation for its financial losses due to the sanctions that were implemented by the Trump administration. The Republicans should also closely monitor Iran’s illicit missile program and its terrorist tendencies.
A powerful Iran would be a clear and present danger to Israel and the Gulf states, and a major obstacle in the way of any future peace agreements between Israel and any other Arab countries.
Maintaining economic sanctions would weaken the iron fist of the ruling clerics and empower the Iranian people to revolt against this vicious totalitarian regime.
A majority Republican Senate would play a vital role in limiting Tehran’s influence, protecting the interests of the US’ major allies in the region and, most importantly, maintaining the country’s national security.
- Dalia Al-Aqidi is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Security Policy. She is a former Republican congressional candidate. Twitter: @DaliaAlAqidi