The Washington Stand

Abraham Accords, the JCPOA, and Joe Biden’s Strange Attachment to Iran

Adjunct Fellow, Center for Religious Freedom
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the soul of the nation,
Joe Biden on September 1, 2022, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (The White House via Flickr)

Images of brave, death-defying protestors have flooded the highways and byways of Iran, and the world has been amazed by the courage of these fearless women and men. They have stirred the hearts of liberty-loving westerners with their angry chants against the mullahs of the Iranian dictatorship. And in the process, they also managed to silence — at least for the moment — the voice of U.S. special representative for Iran, Robert Malley.

Speaking on behalf of President Joe Biden, Malley embodies the administration’s unfathomable efforts to resuscitate the failed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement between Iran and the United States as well as five other nations. Western observers — including Israel’s top defense leadership — continue to be mystified by the Obama and Biden administrations’ seemingly willful blindness to Iran’s malevolent agenda, both in the Middle East and globally.

The JCPOA is an arms control treaty, crafted by the Obama administration. Endorsed by the United Nations Security Council as Resolution 2231, and adopted on July 20, 2015, the JCPOA provided detailed actions intended to stop Iran’s efforts to create a nuclear warhead.

In 2017, President Donald Trump explained to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual conference why his “… number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous [JCPOA] deal with Iran,” outlining what he saw as the flawed agreement’s failure to address the nations destabilizing influence in the region and the development of its ballistic missile program.

Many Americans continue to have qualms about Obama and Biden’s open-handedness to the notoriously violent Iranian regime. Recently, Foreign Policy reported that current efforts to renew the JCPOA by Robert Malley have exposed a “deep mistrust” of Iran:

But the deep mistrust that has crippled the talks in Vienna will likely cast a similar pall over any future agreements. Experts say the compromises that diplomats have painstakingly pursued to save the JCPOA by satisfying both sides’ concerns have still failed to bring the two sides together. One dispute was over an investigation by the IAEA into Iran’s nuclear activities at three undeclared sites. Iran has called for an end to the investigation and recently offered the IAEA access to the sites, but the agency is also asking for the details of what happened to the uranium found there.

Unlike America’s leadership, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s vision for Middle East Peace cannot and will not embrace today’s Iran. In fact, in 2018, Mossad’s discovery and evacuation by smuggling of a vast warehouse containing decades of explicit plans for a nuclear weapon’s development slammed and locked the door to further such discussions.

In recent years, rather than try to create unrealistic diplomatic ties with Iran, Israel has instead reached out to Arab leaders who are also threatened by Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Years before the ground-breaking Abraham Accords were noticed or named, Israel was quietly developing relationships with Middle East leaders who shared common cause for peace and security — and who recognized Israel’s rapidly growing research, development, and technical superiority.

While Egypt and Jordan were the first Arab nations to enter peace agreements with Israel, (Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994) the rest of the Arab world maintained a stand-off posture with Israel until Donald Trump became president. His passion for Israel and his boldness in his foreign policy initiatives opened new opportunities for mutual defense agreements between Israel and her neighbors.

The first country to sign a normalization agreement with Israel was the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Of that historic event, in his recently released autobiography, Prime Minister Netanyahu writes,

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed (MBZ) was a shrewd and visionary leader. Following in his father’s footsteps, he completed the transformation of the Emirates from several sleepy fishing villages into a robust free trade zone with excellent shopping and port facilities. He understood that a peace agreement with Israel would offer the Emirati economy the benefit of Israeli innovation and tourism, closer defense ties with Israel, and a tacit alliance with the Israel and the US against the aggression of Iran, only a few kilometers away on the other side of the Strait of Hormuz.

The Abraham Accords today also include Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco.

Despite Netanyahu’s positive approach to his rough neighborhood, Presidents Obama and Biden share a mutual distrust of him; his priorities lie 100% with the safety and security of Israel. And, unfortunately, President Biden’s political appointments reflect the same cynicism that distanced President Obama from Israel and, in turn, from Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israel leaders. Consider these ZOA assessments of Biden’s choices:

Maher Bitar, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Intelligence Programs on the White House’s National Security Council staff, has declared, “Israel’s political existence as a state is the cause for Palestinian dispossession and statelessness. … Israel’s rejection of their right to return remains the main obstacle to finding a durable solution.”

Hady Amr is deputy assistant secretary for Israeli-Palestinian Affairs Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and Special Envoy to the Palestinians. Amr wrote, “I was inspired by the Palestinian intifada” (the terror wars in which Palestinian Arab terrorists murdered or maimed 10,000 Jews); he falsely accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing.” Amr called for a deal with Hamas; and works as the anti-Israel Middle East Justice Network’s national coordinator.

Uzra Zeya, under secretary of state for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, is on record “denouncing the ‘Israel lobby’ and the ‘secret money’ it uses to control American politicians.” Her support of Hamas and the PLO indicates that she is not concerned about civilian security since they notoriously place “weapons in schools, hospitals, mosques…. Nor does her support of Hamas and the PA suggest she should be in charge of defending ‘democracy’ anywhere else.”

Meanwhile, Biden’s chief Iranian negotiator, Robert Malley, has long been viewed with suspicion by congressional leaders who support Israel. Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) minced no words: “It is deeply troubling that President Biden would consider appointing Rob Malley to direct Iran policy. Malley has a long track record of sympathy for the Iranian regime and animus towards Israel. The Ayatollahs wouldn’t believe their luck if he is selected…”

Cotton also pointed out that “Malley wrongly condemned the Trump administration’s ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions on Iran, falsely saying that sanctions devastated Iran’s economy but achieved little else. In fact, sanctions provide leverage for a better deal and have been extraordinarily effective.”

In January 2020, Malley incorrectly denounced the targeted killings of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) terrorist-in-chief Qassem Soleimani who was planning more imminent attacks on Americans. Malley also mistakenly claimed that killing Soleimani would likely lead to war. 

Similarly, in November 2020, Malley also condemned the targeted killing of top Iranian IRGC nuclear scientist and designated terrorist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Malley absurdly claimed that Fakhrizadeh’s death would “make it all the more difficult for [Trump’s] successor to resume diplomacy with Iran.”

Even as the JCPOA teeters on the brink, and misguided international efforts fail to bring the shameless Iranian regime back to negotiations, Iran continues to be rocked by brave, defiant demonstrators calling for a revolution. Yet President Joe Biden seems to be living in an alternative universe. When it comes to his political decisions, concerned American and Israeli Iran-watchers can only shake their heads in amazement.

As the old saying goes, “With friends like this, who need enemies?”

Read in the Washington Stand.