The writer is a former Trump administration official who served as deputy associate attorney-general, senior adviser to the Treasury secretary, and general counsel at the US Department of Education.
Over strong Israeli opposition, and despite Iranian promises to destroy the Jewish state, US President Joe Biden is moving quickly to restore Barack Obama’s Iran nuclear deal, paving the way for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
At the same time, there has been a decided uptick in the number and severity of Palestinian and Iranian attacks against Israel. My sources inside the US government suggest one factor behind this may be tacit Biden permission or support for increased violence from Gaza and a new intifada if Israel refuses to accede quietly to a new Iran deal or takes “unapproved” steps to defend itself against the Iranian threat. This would be a catastrophic mistake and horrific breach of trust. But on the facts, the idea the Biden government would pressure the Israeli government by green-lighting Iranian or Palestinian terror attacks against innocent Israelis cannot lightly be dismissed.
The evidence of Biden/Obama duplicity regarding Iran is hard to miss. Recently, The New York Times reported that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was recorded on recently leaked tapes saying John Kerry, secretary of state during the Obama administration, informed him of more than 200 secret Israeli operations in Syria. This report is credible given Kerry’s happy collusion with Iranian leaders to undermine the Trump administration’s efforts to isolate the mullahs, impose an effective sanctions regime, and choke out their nuclear and conventional weapon programs.
That Kerry, who has a seat on Biden’s National Security Council, was passing US intelligence information on Israeli defense activities to a regime sworn to wipe Israel from the map might seem to be an unseemly betrayal of America’s closest Middle-Eastern ally. But when it came to Iran, the Obama administration did not merely betray the Israelis. It also lied repeatedly to Congress and the American people.
For example, Obama famously failed to disclose the existence of secret side-deals on inspections when he transmitted the nuclear accord to Capitol Hill. They were only uncovered by chance when then-representative Mike Pompeo and Sen. Tom Cotton learned about them during a meeting with International Atomic Energy Agency officials in Vienna. Then, the Obama administration secretly sent a plane to Tehran loaded with $400 million in Swiss francs, euros and other currencies on the same day Iran released four American hostages, which was followed by two more secret flights carrying another $1.3 billion in cash.
The Obama administration worked closely with the Iranians to indirectly transfer billions of dollars, subsequently used to fund Iranian activities in Syria and to support Hezbollah in Lebanon. For example, it signed a secret agreement with Iran to lift UN sanctions from two Iranian banks that helped finance Iran’s ballistic-missile program.
In 2018, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, led by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), revealed the Obama administration secretly tried to help Iran use US banks to convert $5.7b. in Iranian assets while promising Congress that Iran would not get access to the US financial system. Treasury official Adam Szubin played a key role in this effort.
Months before Szubin testified in front of congressional committees promising Iran would not have access to the US financial system, the Treasury Department issued a specific license to Bank Muscat permitting the conversion of Iranian assets in precisely that way. Portman’s report noted a 2016 email showing Szubin taking steps to facilitate Iranian access to the money. For his efforts, and almost certainly to delay and obstruct incoming Trump officials, Szubin was rewarded with an appointment as acting Treasury secretary.
At roughly the same time Kerry was passing intelligence on the Israelis to the Iranians, and Szubin was misleading Congress and working to bypass Iran sanctions, the Obama administration was directing US taxpayer dollars to build a political campaign infrastructure to subvert Israel’s government. Obama was caught and exposed by the bipartisan Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer grants to a nonprofit front group to build Israeli voter databases, train activists, and hire Obama campaign political operatives, all to take down Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The State Department’s top diplomat in Jerusalem was informed of these activities in emails, but the official, then-consul general Michael Ratney, claimed never to have seen them. Not surprisingly, this overt and poorly executed foreign election interference was buried by the American media.
This history is instructive because the Biden administration is staffed by many of the same individuals responsible for executing Obama’s policies. And the evidence is Obama’s Iran playbook is back in use.
To begin with, Biden has ended the Trump administration’s policies of strong support for Israel and vigorous opposition of Iran. “Negotiations” are back in full swing to relax Iran sanctions and ensure Iran again has a clear path to a nuclear weapon by hamstringing Israel’s defense. And once more, American officials are working to stop Israel from defending itself. According to The Wall Street Journal, “unnamed” US government officials recently leaked information on longstanding covert Israeli efforts to stop Iranian oil and weapons shipments. Biden’s people have informed Jerusalem of their displeasure over recent attacks against Iranian targets attributed to Israel for interfering with a quick deal. What John Kerry did, it seems, is being done again.
Also, “indirect” funding of the Iranian government may again be on the table. Republican legislators recently asked Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for information into foreign reports that the United States is facilitating “ransom” payments of over $1b. from South Korea to Iran. Yellen never answered, directing Congress to the State Department for additional information. What Adam Szubin did, it seems, is being done again.
For now, the Biden administration has the benefit of working in the shadows. Congressional Republicans are in the minority with limited oversight tools and leverage. During the Obama years, Democrats, even (or especially) those claiming to be “pro-Israel,” fought meaningful steps to expose, oversee or oppose that administration’s support for Iran. Given their extraordinary silence about the metastasizing anti-Israel/pro-Iran Biden foreign policy and national security apparatus, there is no reason to believe they will do anything to oppose the Biden administration either.
Israel is not entirely on her own in confronting Iran and its Palestinian proxies. But it is time to tell the truth: In Biden’s administration, Israel’s security will be sacrificed, and happily so, for a deal with Iran.