For Joe Biden, security of the Sunni Arabs of the Gulf, Israel or even American people is not priority now, as he desperately needs to save Democratic Party from a possible doom during the November midterm elections. Writes Hugh Fitzgerald
Joe Biden knows that the record inflation that is playing havoc with American families, who are increasingly distraught at the rising prices of everything – food, fuel, clothing, rent – will have consequences for Democratic congressional candidates in the 2022 election, and for his own reelection prospects in 2024. He also knows that the most obvious examples of such devastating price rises are those for heating oil and, especially, for gasoline at the pump. He is determined to bring down the price of oil by lifting sanctions on two major producers, Venezuela and Iran. Both countries are run by unsavory regimes – at least as unsavory as that of Vladimir Putin – but the Bidenites don’t care. They want to save their political skins. A report on Biden’s intention to encourage Iran to raise its own oil production is here: “Is the West is selling out to Iran to lower gas prices?,” by Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, March 12, 2022
…But President Joe Biden isn’t taking a page out of Churchill’s book to build an alliance that will defeat Russia’s authoritarian leader Vladimir Putin. Nor is he implementing a strategy that will do real damage to Putin’s alliance with China — a budding superpower that is an even more dangerous rogue regime. Instead, Biden seems to be primarily interested in saving his own political skin by making deals with terrorist and dictatorial regimes because that might lower American gas prices. Washington is selling out American allies like Israel in the Middle East and elsewhere merely to combat the record inflation that has grown on Biden’s watch and which is likely to lead to an epic midterm congressional defeat for the Democrats.…
To be fair, Biden has sent hundreds of millions of dollars worth of vital aid – including Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger surface-to-air missiles – to Ukraine’s military, and has encouraged European countries to send weapons as well. But he is now prepared to yield to Iran’s every demand in the “bad, very bad, terrible” agreement that his capitulationist negotiator with the Iranians, Rob Malley, has almost ready for signing. Biden wants only one thing right now from Iran, which is a readiness to pump its oil and gas in order that the prices of both go down, so that in America, he can present himself to consumers as the man who “lowered the price at the pump.”
The elephant in the war room is China, the second military and economic power in the world, and thus the only ally Putin really needs; there is no possibility of “peeling away” Beijing’s support from Russia. Nor it seems, will India, which has traditionally had close ties with Russia, as it did with the Soviet Union, join the West in condemning Russia and extending help to the Ukrainians.
That was the conceit behind the recent not-so-secret visit of senior American officials to Venezuela. Their goal was, in the words of an AP report, to “unfreeze relations” between the dictatorial socialist regime led by Nicolás Maduro and the United States in order to help get Venezuelan oil back on the market, so as to reduce the impact of the administration’s decision to ban the importation of the vital resource from Russia….
The Bidenites, in their outreach to Venezuela, don’t seem to realize just how difficult it will be for Venezuela to increase production. In 1998, it produced 3.5 million barrels per day; most recently, it has been producing 680,000 barrels a day. “Venezuela can’t contribute much, its oil industry is destroyed,’’ José Toro Hardy, a prominent Venezuelan economist has said. By Toro Hardy’s figuring, it would take about $250 billion of investment and seven to eight years to bring Venezuela’s production back to its former levels. “Major foreign investment is needed, and it can’t reach the country if the country can’t commit to restoring democracy,’’ he added. Given that, Jonathan S. Tobin, author of the JNS article, is right to conclude that nothing that happens in South America (that is, in Venezuela) will have any impact on the Ukraine-Russia war; even with conceivable American support, there won’t be any noticeable increase in Venezuelan oil output for several years.
But no one should underestimate the determination of the administration to appease Iran, so it would be foolish to think that foreign-policy officials will not continue to push for a new accord.
While it boggles the imagination to think of how enriching and empowering the world’s leading state sponsor of international terrorism will make anyone safer, the war in Ukraine has provided another rationale for Biden’s appeasement policy. Washington believes that bringing Iran back into the community of nations — and its considerable oil reserves back onto the market — will also help the effort to isolate Russia, whose main national asset other than its nuclear arsenal is its vast supplies of oil and natural gas.
The Bidenites are determined to revive the 2015 deal, in an “even worse version.” For example, Iran will not have to give up any of the advanced centrifuges it now possesses, but can keep them in storage ready for immediate use. Nor will Iran have to admit IAEA inspectors to sites it has in the past kept hidden from them. Nor will Tehran have to surrender the uranium it has enriched to a level of 60%, just below weapons-grade. And the “sunset” provisions remain intact; by 2031, there will be nothing to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
The point being is that if you think stopping Putin’s criminal aggression in Ukraine is the world’s top priority, then moral compromises are going to be necessary. And if that means holding our noses and doing business with Maduro or Tehran’s murderous theocrats, then that is what must be done.…
Should stopping Putin’s aggression be the “top priority” for the world? It threatens Ukraine and is terrible, and whatever aid, especially weapons, can be supplied to Ukraine must be given. But is the outcome of the war in Ukraine more important to the security of the world than preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power? All our attention is now fixed on Ukraine, while in Vienna, an agreement at least as dangerous to the world as Russian troops in Ukraine is getting ready for prime time.
It will take, as previously noted, years for Venezuelan oil production to ramp up. Iran, on the other hand, can increase its own production within two months of the revived Iraq deal being signed, by 1.4 mbd. But Tobin notes that Putin is not likely to be affected by a rise in non-Russian oil production and a concomitant fall in the world price of oil; he has shown that he is willing to have Russians endure great economic pain without swerving from his determination to crush Ukraine. The main effects of bringing more Iranian oil to the market are twofold: first, to prevent an increase in Russian revenues from oil sales, and second, to lower gasoline prices at the pump for American consumers. It is that which Biden is counting on to help the Democrats in Congressional races later this year, and – above all – to help his own chances of being reelected in 2024.
A serious approach to stopping Russia would be rooted in the recognition that American efforts to cozy up to rogue regimes like Russia, China and Iran have to end. As Eli Lake outlines in a cogent analysis of the situation in Commentary magazine, that would mean understanding that such countries are a threat to the entire community of nations. Stopping them from gaining ascendancy — let alone preventing future Ukraine wars — involves, among other things, committing to disentangling the American and Chinese economies, and altering the international system to build an alternative to a United Nations that is unable to defend the rule of law or prevent itself from becoming hostage to dictatorial and antisemitic governments whose goals are antithetical to the idea of collective security or world peace.
These rogue regimes are permanent threats to the rest of the world. The Americans should attempt, Eli Lake says, to “disentangle” their economy from that of China. That includes closing the American market to products from Chinese companies that are guilty of predatory pricing, or of the theft of American intellectual property, or of mistreating – by severely underpaying — their own workers. And the Americans should urge European countries to do the same. Protectionism must sometimes be embraced. Tariffs need to be systematically imposed so as to protect American businesses being destroyed by Chinese competition. China’s ruthless rise as an economic superpower bodes ill for Western democracies and the economic well-being of their citizens. It ought to be stopped while there is still time.
Russia, similarly, under Putin threatens not just Ukraine, but also other countries. In Georgia, it might try to take still more Georgian territory and hand it over to the Russian-created states of Abkhazia and North Ossetia. Russia also threatens two non-NATO states, Finland and Sweden, that should be offered membership in the security alliance at once. 53 percent of Finns are now in favor of joining NATO. That’s a dramatic change: in 2017, the same poll showed only 19 percent of Finns wanting to join NATO. Polls in favor of joining NATO are up in Sweden as well, with 41 percent supporting joining NATO just before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, compared to 35 percent of Swedes who, just after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, were in favor of joining.
Eli Lake suggests that the West create an alternative to the U.N., as that organization has become a corrupt and corrupting body, a kangaroo court where Israel is perennially in the dock, and nothing is ever done to punish the real offenders of human rights – Russia, China, Iran, Turkey, North Korea. A different organization, encompassing all of the world’s democracies, needs to be created, one where China and Russia would not be able to cast vetoes whenever they felt their own interests were being threatened, as they now do at the Security Council. This new organization, furthermore, limited to democracies, would have very few Muslim members, insofar as they are monarchies, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Morocco, or theocracies, such as Iran, or terrorist-run states, such as Afghanistan. That is important, because the Muslim nations now form the largest — indeed the only — bloc at the U.N. If you believe that the war of Islam-versus-the-West, or rather, of Islam-versus-the-Rest, has already begun, then you will recognize the need for an alternative to a Muslim-dominated U.N.
Jonathan Tobin continues his evisceration of Biden’s eagerness to have Iranian oil production back at full throttle:
The administration would like to halt the unfolding tragedy in Ukraine. To its credit, it is not so foolish as to listen to the delusional advice of those who want NATO to become a combatant in the war by imposing a no-fly zone that would have unknowable and likely catastrophic consequences. The grim truth is that after cutting the Russians off from the international economy and sending armaments, Washington has likely done all it could reasonably do to help the Ukrainians, who are bravely resisting the Russian onslaught. But if Putin is truly determined to get his way by any means necessary, then he continues to hold all the cards.…
Washington has not “done all it could reasonably do to help the Ukrainians.” It can always supply more weapons, more Stinger missiles, more Javelin anti-tank missiles, more mines, more artillery and guns. These weapons should continue to be transferred for as long as the Ukrainians can receive them – that is, until Russia, now moving troops toward Ukraine’s border with Poland, is able to interdict most of the shipments. It’s true that a determined Putin, with total military personnel of 900,000, compared to Ukraine’s 210,000, with many more weapons, and with its control of the skies over Ukraine, will in the end be able to subdue the Ukrainians. The question is how long the Ukrainians can hold out. Every day they are still fighting should be seen as a victory, given that Putin had expected it would take only a few days to seize enough territory so that the Ukrainians would surrender. And another question remains unanswered: how long will it take for the people of Russia to learn the truth about Putin’s war, about the Russians killed and wounded, about the Russian losses of tanks, planes, and other war materiel, about the tenacity and bravery of the Ukrainian resistance, and about the condemnation of Russia by most of the world?
With respect to Iran, the rush to get their oil on the market is more than a betrayal of principle that won’t help democracy in Ukraine or anywhere else. It’s a sellout of American security interests, as well as allies like Israel and the Arab states that are directly threatened by an accord that doesn’t put off an Iranian nuclear weapon so much as it guarantees that Tehran will get one at the end of the decade or sooner. As Gabriel Noronha details in a*n article in Tablet, the new deal is “much, much worse” in terms of its appeasement of Iranian terror, in addition to failing to accomplish the pact’s stated goal of preventing this fanatical Islamist regime from becoming a nuclear power….
The new “much worse” deal does not require Iran to explain why it prevented, and sill prevents, the IAEA inspectors to visit certain sites. It does not require Iran to give up the stores of uranium it has enriched to a level of 60%, that is just below weapons-grade. It does not require Iran to give up its advanced centrifuges. Iran’s nuclear program remains intact, ready to start up at a moment’s notice. Nor does this “much worse” deal attempt to deal with Iran’s ballistic missile program – ballistic missiles being able to carry a nuclear warhead. Finally, this “much worse” deal does nothing to limit the regional aggression carried out by Iran through its network of proxies and allies, including the Houthis in Yemen, the Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq, Assad’s. army in Syria, and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
While inflation cannot be attributed solely to Biden’s policies, it is true that one of the things that has exacerbated it in this country has been his initially limiting the importing of oil, and the extracting of oil here at home. On his first day in office, he revoked a cross-border permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried heavy crude from Canada’s Alberta Sands deep inside the U.S. Biden then imposed a moratorium on the sale of oil and gas leases on federal lands, until a judge in June 2021 forced the government to lift it. Eventually the Administration changed its view, and not only allowed the sale of many such leases, but also found itself encouraging American oil producers to lift as much crude as they could.
But now the administration is not just encouraging, but frantically urging, that production be increased worldwide. Reality has set in. And among the states currently producing below capacity, Iran has the greatest potential upside. The Bidenites are eager to conclude that agreement in Vienna that will allow the Islamic Republic to produce as much oil and gas as it wants. And those most threatened by Iran –Israel, and the Sunni Arab states – will be on their own to face the consequences of a country run by fanatics, enriched by tens of billions of dollars annually in increased sales of oil and gas. Iran now produces 2.4 million barrels a day; after the agreement is signed, it plans to increase production to 3.8 million barrels a day. That will bring Iran roughly $20 billion more than it receives at present from the sale of oil. With both unfrozen assets, and with the money from increased oil sales, Iran can send a great many more weapons and money to the Houthis, to those Shi’a militias in southern Iraq that it controls, and to Hezbollah. And it will have many billions more to spend as well on its both its nuclear program and on the ballistic missiles that will carry those nuclear warheads.
It’s difficult to imagine a more cynical or destructive policy than one that endangers friends merely in order to boost the president’s political standing at home. Much as Americans want to put a lid on gas prices, to buy that outcome by appeasing Iran is an immoral abandonment of American interests and obligations that won’t aid Ukraine or stop Putin.
Sorry, the Bidenites have made up their mind. That deal with Iran, the fruit of endless concessions by the unspeakable Robert Malley, must go through. No, it’s not a treaty, the Bidenites insist, so “we don’t need Senate approval.” We’ll see about that.
But Biden has more important things to think about than the security of Israel or of the Sunni Arabs of the Gulf. He’s got an election to win.
Please follow Blitz on Google News channel