Biden offered Iran an olive branch but it isn't working - opinion

The only viable approach is not half-hearted but a full-court press of restrictive economic measures against the Islamic Republic’s rulers. We must ask ourselves, do these sanctions work?

Iranian commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Hossein Salami, second from right, and Iran's Chief of General Staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri, third from left, attend the graduation ceremony of Imam Hussein Military University in Tehran, Oct. 3, 2021.  (photo credit: Iranian Leader Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Iranian commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Hossein Salami, second from right, and Iran's Chief of General Staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri, third from left, attend the graduation ceremony of Imam Hussein Military University in Tehran, Oct. 3, 2021.
(photo credit: Iranian Leader Press Office/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

For four decades, the US State Department has called the Islamic Republic of Iran the world’s “most active state sponsor of terrorism.” For 40 years, US officials claimed that Iran had continued funding, providing weapons, training terrorists, and giving sanctuary to several terrorist groups. Since its inception, the Islamic Republic has existed in an environment of conflict, isolation, and sanctions.

Iran has a nuclear program that is not, despite its claims, for peaceful purposes. The country kept its nuclear program secret for several years. Its leaders intend to prolong the program’s existence only long enough to get their hands on the bomb so they can feel invincible and continue their control over the unarmed Iranian people and ultimately export their Islamic revolution and terrorism around the globe.

Since 1987, the United Nations, the United States, and the European Union, among others, have levied significant economic sanctions on Iran. The goal of these sanctions is to force Tehran to suspend uranium enrichment and allow unfettered supervision of its nuclear operations.

During the previous administration, the US used maximum pressure on the Iranian regime. Through economic sanctions, the US was pursuing an extreme pressure campaign to compel Iran’s regime to permanently scrap its nuclear weapons ambitions and halt its terrorist financing. Meanwhile, US allies in the European Union have ignored US sanctions and responded to them by calling on countries to disregard threats from Washington.

Hence, US President Joe Biden's recent appeasement move (déjà vu) to restore sanctions waivers to Iran, as indirect American-Iranian talks on revitalizing the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran enter the ultimate stretch, is nothing new.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi delivers a speech during the ceremony of the National Army Day parade in Tehran, Iran April 18, 2022. (credit: PRESIDENT WEBSITE/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi delivers a speech during the ceremony of the National Army Day parade in Tehran, Iran April 18, 2022. (credit: PRESIDENT WEBSITE/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY)/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

“The Obama Administration finally admitted something its critics had long suspected,” John Hayward, Breitbart’s national security deputy editor wrote in September 2016. “The entire $1.7 billion tribute paid to Iran was tendered in cash – not just the initial $400 million infamously shipped to the Iranians in a cargo plane – at the same moment four American hostages were released.”

Recently, Iran’s parliament has demanded that the US remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from its Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list, as one of the required measures to renew the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear deal. In 2019, then-US President Donald Trump’s administration put the IRGC on the FTO list, saying that Iran is “an outlaw regime that uses terrorism as a key tool of statecraft.” The Biden Administration, dealing from a position of weakness, is considering the removal of the group, just as the Obama Administration delisted the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (Mujahedin-e Khalq) on Sept. 28, 2012. 

Iran’s mullahs only understand the language of strength. They will take advantage of any perceived weakness and will assault if they feel retreat.

The US administration’s double-standard vis-à-vis Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran is shocking. While the US calls Vladimir Putin a war criminal for committing genocide in Ukraine and imposes massive sanctions on Russia’s economy, it allows Russia to negotiate on its behalf over Iran’s nuclear program. Iran was dishonest about the old deal from the very start and used its profits to destabilize the Middle East. That is exactly what it will do again, thanks to the new worst deal in history, brokered by Russia at the Biden Administration’s behest.

When dealing with the mullahs ruling Iran, what you see is not what you get, and what you hear is not what they mean. Transparency and honesty are not their strong suit. 

The best predictor of future behavior is past performance. The religiously fanatical mullahs’ record is one of deception, dissimulation, treachery, violence, and more. They have perfected the art of deception. 

The only viable approach is not half-hearted but a full-court press of restrictive economic measures against the Islamic Republic’s rulers. Unfortunately, it would make the Iranian people, particularly those outside the ruling apparatus, suffer hugely. But Iran’s people are willing to suffer a temporary hurt of this nature to get rid of the scourge that is the Islamic Republic. 

We must ask ourselves, do these sanctions work? If sanctions must be pursued, then selective sanctions are the best method for preventing nuclear proliferation. The goal of sanctions is not to inflict pain and suffering but to affect a change in the policy or behavior of the target state.

The best strategy – the one that stands the greatest chance of success and entails the least risk of starting a cataclysmic chain reaction – is for a "coalition of the willing," to borrow a phrase, to rally behind the Iranian opposition. Democracy-seeking secular Iranians are thoroughly capable of dislodging the tyrannical mullahs.

The misguided advocates of negotiation with the mullahs must beware. The mullahs are on a fanatical mission. They are intoxicated with petrodollars and aim to settle for nothing less than complete domination of the world under the Islamic ummah. They consider America and the West a dying system, while they believe their Islamism is the rising order. They are in no mood to negotiate for anything less than the total surrender of democracy to Islamism.

Dr. Iman Foroutan is the chairman of the board and executive director of The New Iran.