Biden withdrew support for Saudi Arabia’s attempt to stop Iranian-backed Houthi forces from overrunning the country. Subsequently, the Houthis stormed the US Embassy in Yemen and are now threatening a strategic, oil-rich city near the Saudi border. Writes Hugh Fitzgerald
The story of the Bidenites’ insufficient response to Iran’s continued march toward enriching uranium to the weapons-grade level of 90% purity is here: “Biden fiddles around while Iran builds a bomb and hegemony,” by Mitchell Bard, Israel Hayom, December 2, 2021:
According to The New York Times, American officials have warned Israel that repeated attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities are counterproductive; meanwhile, the Biden administration has twiddled its thumbs as Iran advances closer to the nuclear threshold. Reports now indicate Iran could produce enough fissile fuel in a month to build a weapon, and the Iranians have repeatedly said they will not discuss a stronger agreement that as a candidate, US President Joe Biden said he would negotiate. Nevertheless, he has not been dissuaded from appeasing the mullahs in the hope they will return to the old deal they never complied with.
It is of course intolerable for the Bidenites to warn Israel away from doing what it must to slow down Iran’s nuclear progress; there is no reason to believe that these attacks have been, as the Americans claim, “counterproductive”: they have done exactly what they were supposed to do, to set back Iran’s nuclear program, and the Israel’s leaders believe these attacks have delayed Iran’s progress by as much as a year. It is Israel, not the U.S., that is Iran’s main target, and the Jewish state has a right to defend itself as it sees fit, even if that makes Iran less amenable to negotiations in Vienna. While Iran delayed a return to those negotiations by five months, all that while working on enriching uranium, the Bidenites continued to appease Iran, hoping to lure it back to the talks in Vienna. When Iran did return to negotiations, it made maximalist demands, insisting that all sanctions should be lifted before the talks would resume. Even Secretary Blinken said on Dec. 2 that the Iranians were not “serious” about negotiations, and again warned that “other options” would have to be considered.
Unfortunately, former President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign failed (maybe four more years would have made a difference, but that was unlikely given the lack of international cooperation). Now, following precedents set by presidents Obama and Trump, Biden is allowing Iran and its proxies to attack US forces and allies with impunity.
The Iranians in mid-October attacked U.S. forces stationed at the Tanf base in Syria with a drone strike; the Americans did not retaliate for what some claim was Iran’s response to a previous Israeli attack on an Iranian base in Syria. The Bidenites did not respond to that attack by Iran for fear of derailing the talks which they have been so intent on resuming.
Iran has no incentive to change its policies given the display of US weakness highlighted by the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan that emboldened jihadis everywhere (and the mullahs in Iran) by demonstrating their commitment to their faith is stronger than America’s loyalty to its allies.
The withdrawal from Afghanistan and that country’s takeover by the Taliban marked the American defeat in its longest war. To make matters worse, the “chaotic withdrawal” from the country led to tens of thousands of Afghans who had worked with the Americans being left stranded in the country; even some American citizens, four months after the American withdrawal, are still in Afghanistan trying to get out. The whole spectacle did not inspire confidence among America’s Middle East allies, who are also well aware that the Administration wants to cut back its forces in the Middle East and to pivot toward Asia, to counter the looming threat, economic and military, of China.
Consider a few other responses to Iranian aggression:
Biden withdrew support for Saudi Arabia’s attempt to stop Iranian-backed Houthi forces from overrunning the country. Subsequently, the Houthis stormed the US Embassy in Yemen and are now threatening a strategic, oil-rich city near the Saudi border.
The Bidenites were more concerned about the Saudi role in creating a “humanitarian crisis” in Yemen than they were about the Houthi threat – the Houthis, of course, were just as responsible as the Saudis for that “humanitarian crisis” – and the devastating effects of Yemen’s seven-year civil war on its people. After the Bidenites had scolded the Saudis, the Houthis expressed their “gratitude” by storming the American Embassy and, heartened by Washington’s public dressing-down of Riyadh, the Houthis are now laying siege to the city of Marib.
Biden wants to transfer weapons to the Lebanese army despite Israeli warnings that they will end up in the hands of Hezbollah and strengthen Iran’s control over Lebanon.
The Israelis know that in the past Hezbollah has been able to seize weapons from the Lebanese Army’s arsenal; why should the situation be any different now? If anything, Hezbollah is much stronger than before, and the Lebanese Army weaker. Hezbollah is not to be dissuaded by the West or Gulf Arabs giving more arms to the Lebanese Army, which have been, and can again be taken by Hezbollah. Only a popular uprising by the economically devastated population of Lebanon, demanding that Hezbollah voluntarily disarm and cease to act as Iran’s viceroy in the country, has a chance of succeeding in ending Hezbollah’s rule.
Biden has not responded to numerous provocations at sea, including Iranian forces nearing US naval vessels, seizing allies’ ships and attacking Israeli-owned vessels.
There have been several incidents where Iranian small craft have harassed, in groups, American ships in the Persian Gulf. The Iranian navy has seized the ships of our allies, including one tanker belonging to the UK. Others have been taken, too, such as the Liberian-flagged Gulf Sky, and taken back to Iran. The Americans could have destroyed one or more of the small craft harassing their ships; it would have been a salutary warning to the Iranians. But so far the Bidenites have refrained from any such response. One assumes this was prompted by the eagerness of Washington to make sure Iran would return to the nuclear negotiations in Vienna.
Biden has allowed Iranian-backed attacks on US bases in Syria and Iraq to go unpunished.
The latest attacks on the American military stationed at the Tanf Base in Syria, and the attacks by Iranian-backed militias on American soldiers in northern Iraq, were both allowed to pass without a military response. In fact, only twice since becoming President has Biden ordered very modest strikes on Iranian-backed Iraqi militias. And while the negotiations have renewed in Vienna, he is unlikely to.do anything that Iran might seize upon as a “provocation” leading it to once again walk away from those negotiations.
The only good news is that Biden has not eased sanctions. In addition to maintaining Trump’s sanctions, he did impose a few others, notably on individuals and companies involved in the production of drones (ironic given his criticism of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign and its failure), which was apparently his idea of a tough response to the Iranian attack on our base in Syria. Still, as talks resume in Vienna, the Iranians made clear they will not return to the old deal and will not do anything without sanctions relief. Fears remain that Biden so desperately wants an agreement that he will relent.
These fears were enhanced by reports of a supposed interim deal floated by Robert Malley, one of the people who helped put the world in the dangerous position it is now in by promoting the original Iran deal. Under this crazy idea, the United States would release billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets, which, like the payoff to get the original deal, will give Iran more funds for its nefarious activities. In exchange, Iran would only be expected to suspend, not reverse, the enrichment activities that have brought it closer to the purity needed for a bomb. Not surprisingly, Israel opposed this idea.
Fortunately, the Iranians have not accepted Malley’s proposal, but are insisting on a complete lifting of the sanctions – and not just the unfreezing of Iranian assets – before they will return to any deal on their uranium enrichment program. And that has proved to be, even for the Bidenites, impossible to accept.