THE US and its allies have placed crippling financial sanctions on Russia to punish its invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, Washington is reportedly on the verge of lifting similar sanctions on Iran’s potentially genocidal theocratic regime which has vowed the destruction of Israel.
It doesn’t require special insight to detect a glaring anomaly at the heart of Western foreign policy.
Year-long negotiations in Vienna to revive President Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran’s mullahs are approaching an agreement for President Biden to endorse. Any promises Iran is making over its drive to become the Middle East’s first nuclear power – which was undeterred by sanctions – are still undisclosed.
The outlines of removing economic sanctions on Iran have been made public by former US state department official and Iran expert Gabriel Noronha in a series of tweets which went over the head of the White House. He said the US and its European allies, together with Russia and China, are on the point of ‘total capitulation’.
A former colleague who was Noronha’s source said that ‘what is happening in Vienna is a total disaster’ which requires congressional intervention to prevent a new treaty with Iran being signed, after which there will no going back for the West. In 2015, knowing the US senate would oppose his agreement, Obama circumvented it by getting UN endorsement.
The implications of an Iran unbound are dangerous enough but what is truly astounding is Noronha’s claim that ‘the entire negotiations have been filtered and essentially run by the Russian diplomat Mikhail Ulyanov’.
Robert Malley, a long-time enemy of Israel, officially leads the western side of the talks and is said to support Ulyanov’s compromise which is being held up only until the United States promises never to withdraw from the agreement as President Trump did in 2018 from the Obama deal.
Biden’s desperation for the deal makes it likely that the Iranians, who have pursued a policy of stone-faced refusal to co-operate constructively at every stage, will get their way again.
Nato is in the midst of an economic and diplomatic fight with Russia in which life or death in Ukraine are at stake while at the same time allowing Russia, an Iranian ally, to dictate the terms of an agreement which is crucial to the survival of Israel.
The same West is hypocritically protecting itself from the effects of its sanctions on Russia by exempting the import of oil and gas on which the sanctioning countries all depend to a greater or lesser degree. They admit that this is to protect their governments from domestic political repercussions.
French President Macron faces re-election next month and difficult midterm congressional midterms await Biden in November.
Trading with an enemy in quasi-wartime is in itself a breathtaking precedent. Half-measures pursued for selfish reasons demean the West’s moral case and will not help to bring Vladimir Putin down.
If Noronha’s information is accurate, the US is ready to unblock billions of dollars which will help Iran finance its support for its terrorist allies in south Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Latin America where it has been building links with countries such as Venezuela and Bolivia.
It may be that the agreement will put more stringent conditions on Iran’s nuclear development programme but Tehran did not hesitate to cheat on the Obama deal. Whatever conditions exist on paper, it is unlikely that Iran will submit to the complete transparency that would guarantee its compliance.
Noronha said the Malley/Ulyanov deal lifted personal sanctions on known Iranian terrorist masterminds – making it easier for them to travel – and groups including the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) which is the Iranian government’s main enforcer of its theocratic dictatorship and activities abroad.
Sanctions will be lifted on the National Iranian Oil Company, which has in any case continued to trade with China, providing the Iranians with the wherewithal during sanctions to run a subsistence economy forced on the population by the Basij, the IRGC’s domestic policing arm.
Exactly where Iran is with its nuclear programme is unknown but it is probable that it has at least reached threshold level for the manufacture of a bomb. Once it has the weapon, the next step will be miniaturisation to enable the arming of ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads.
When that stage has been reached, Iran will become the de facto hegemon in the Middle East, deterred only by Israel’s only formidable nuclear weapons which can be delivered either by air or submarine and the hope that the mullahs aren’t suicidal.