Biden’s new Iran Deal must rein in Tehran’s proxies

Biden’s new Iran Deal must rein in Tehran’s proxies

Biden’s new Iran Deal must rein in Tehran’s proxies
Joe Biden will lift sanctions on Iran that are inconsistent with the Iran deal. (Getty Images)
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President Joe Biden has announced that he is preparing to lift sanctions on Iran inconsistent with the Iran deal.

There is no doubt the Obama administration’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), colloquially called the “Iran Deal,” was a great achievement of diplomacy; decades after the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, Washington, London, Tehran and others managed to come together and agree to an international treaty.

Nevertheless, the JCPOA was critically flawed, in a way that made it unsustainable from the outset: It may have successfully contained Iran’s nuclear capacity, but left Tehran free rein to attack other US interests and allies in the Middle East through its long-established, extensive network of proxies dedicated to that goal.

Iran funds, arms, trains, and helps direct many factions, such as the Assad government in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian occupied territories, the Houthis in Yemen, and in recent years even the Afghan Taliban. On top of that, Iran has sustained a number of smaller terrorist groups and cells that have carried out attacks against US diplomatic and military assets for decades.

Read the full report on Arab News Research & Studies here.

A Democrat-led Washington could wear those excesses and fight that fight in isolation of the JCPOA. But any Iran hawk could later come in and use the activities of those proxies against American interests in the region as a pretext to sink the JCPOA and set the US on the path of direct military confrontation with Tehran. And Washington certainly has no shortage of figures keen to do just that.

So yes, it is imperative that Biden resurrects the “Iran Deal” to make sure Tehran does not acquire nuclear weapons. The only other way to potentially stop it from achieving that goal is war, which, in the aftermath of Iraq, should obviously be avoided. Iran is a much bigger and more powerful country than Iraq was, and among the people of Iran, even those who loathe the government would hate Western intervention even more, and would rally against invading forces.

That is to say nothing of the fact that Iran has close economic and strategic ties to both Russia and China, who would aid Tehran’s efforts to defend itself. Conflict is not only a morally wrong course of action: It would be ruinous for America’s interests. Washington may not lose the war, but they would likely lose the peace.

But if war is to be avoided during this and subsequent administrations, treaties between the US and Iran to guarantee peace need to be politically sustainable. Future US presidents must not have easy pretexts to rescind the agreements and re-initiate hostilities.

That primarily means Tehran must be constrained from continuing its proxy war against the US in the Middle East.

Iran funds, arms, trains, and helps direct many factions, such as the Assad government in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian occupied territories, the Houthis in Yemen, and in recent years even the Afghan Taliban.

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim

Of course, this works both ways. Tehran is also replete with anti-American hawks, and their own nationalist conservatives have strong political incentives to undermine any détente with the US and instigate direct confrontation. For this reason, Washington must also make concessions. Above all, it must publicly acknowledge that it was former President Donald Trump who reneged on the JCPOA first, that Tehran complied with the agreement itself despite its malign activities in the region, and that the people of Iran perhaps deserve some compensation for the economic hardship following the reimposition of sanctions by Trump.

Read the full report on Arab News Research & Studies here.

All those things are true, and recognising them as such must be the foundation of any good faith effort to rebuild the nuclear agreement. But in exchange for that good faith, it should be demanded of Iran that it respond with equal good faith and stop funding every proxy and terrorist group opposed to the US in the region. An agreement must be reached, because failure is almost certain to lead to a war with no winners: Both sides will lose status, money, power and the lives of their soldiers, and millions of innocent people caught in the middle will suffer and die needlessly. That is a scenario no one can afford.

  • Dr. Azeem Ibrahim is a director at the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy in Washington DC. Twitter: @AzeemIbrahim
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