Some in the media can’t stop fawning over President Biden’s surprise visit to Ukraine. Headlines celebrating Biden’s “momentous 72 hours in Europe” have run all week. Some have even claimed that, in one visit, Biden single-handedly “destroyed Putin’s last hope” and delivered a so-called “gut punch” to Moscow. With one single trip to Ukraine, President Biden became a foreign policy mastermind in the eyes of the media. But regardless of the visit’s symbolic value, policy is what matters.
It's Biden’s failed policies that have emboldened our adversaries abroad. From Russia to China, our adversaries can see past ceremonial visits and sense weakness in the White House. And sadly, the worst is yet to come. The Biden administration is preparing for what will be yet another foreign policy failure.
If recent reports are true, the Biden administration will soon release to Iran $9 billion dollars of funds currently blocked by U.S. sanctions. Further, the disbursement of funds coincides with a prisoner exchange that would release some of Iran’s worst criminals back into society. In return, some American hostages currently held in Iranian prisons will finally be sent home.
The release of funds will inevitably improve Iran’s ability to manufacture more weapons for Putin’s war. Iran has become Russia’s go-to country for the supply of drones used against Ukraine. For example, in December, Russia attacked Ukraine with 16 Iranian-made drones in a single night. And recent reports indicate that Iran might soon build an entire factory in Russia, dedicated to producing over 6,000 drones for the war in Ukraine.
Indeed, several neighborhoods not too far from where President Biden toured on his surprise visit to Kyiv were decimated by Iranian drones. It’s unclear how the President can deliver a so-called “gut punch” to Putin, while also planning to bail out one of Putin’s chief arms dealers. Lost in the noise of all the fanfare surrounding Biden’s visit is his most self-defeating foreign policy decision to date: financing Ukraine to defeat the same Iranian weapons that he is indirectly funding.
It doesn’t take a PhD in foreign policy to understand how ludicrous such a deal would be to United States interests. Delivering billions of dollars to one of the world’s most barbaric regimes is absurd, even by President Biden’s standards. When our enemies shout “death to America” while building nuclear weapons, perhaps we should think twice before throwing them an economic lifeline.
It's also no surprise that Tehran is demanding cash. American sanctions reimposed during the Trump administration debilitated Iran’s economy. The rial has fallen to a record low of 501,300 rial against the U.S. dollar. The Iranian government purportedly wants to use the funds—which are currently frozen in South Korean banks—for food, medicine, or “other humanitarian purposes.” But if history is any indication, Iran is not to be trusted.
To be sure, the Biden administration ought to continue its work to return American citizens to safety. Siamak Namazi, who was left behind in the 2016 U.S.-Iran prisoner exchange, has been held hostage for seven years—longer than any other American in history. Two other Americans, Morad Tahbaz and Emad Shargi, were thrown into Iranian prisons on bogus “espionage charges” over four years ago. In addition to these citizens, an unknown number of permanent U.S. legal residents are also being unjustly held in violation of international law.
President Biden must ensure that all—not just some—of these innocent American citizens be sent home to their families. And at a minimum, the Biden administration ought to negotiate their release without rewarding Iran with $9 billion in the process.
Simply put, the American people deserve better from their Commander-in-Chief. It’s time that President Biden take American national security seriously. Reversing course on this one-sided deal with our enemy might be a good start.