When your bridegroom boasts that he has been cheating on you all the way up to the night before the wedding, there are grounds for giving the forthcoming marriage second thoughts.
One might have expected similar misgivings from America when, on the cusp of a revised nuclear deal with Tehran, Iranian proxies have been running amok, gleefully firing missiles at US targets across the Middle East.
The West has a lamentable record for faithful, lasting relationships. Former US President Donald Trump committed himself to an ungodly till-death-do-us-part pact with the Taliban, but hardly had the Afghan militants kicked Trump’s successor out of Kabul than they were already violating promises not to cohabit with notorious terrorists.
European states founded three decades of East-facing foreign policy on the philosophy that if they enmeshed themselves in mutually beneficial trade commitments with the Kremlin, then a reversion to Soviet-style expansionism would be unthinkable. Look how well that’s gone …
Nevertheless, many Western pundits have been relishing the prospect of a new nuclear deal to flood the global market with Iranian gas and oil in compensation for the blockade of Russia, enriching the mullahs in the process. Have we learned absolutely nothing?
This brings us to the marriage made in hell between oddly matched Moscow and Tehran. Iran is becoming a vital pipeline for weapons and funds to Russia, and has a wealth of experience to pass on to the Kremlin about sanctions avoidance and challenging the West. The two sides have been colluding on ways to export each other’s sanctioned oil, and routes to outsmarting the international measures imposed on their financial systems.
Given that US President Joe Biden was a senator before the 1979 Iranian revolution, one would expect him to have learned something from four decades of hostile Iranian acts against US interests. And yet, as many a bride-to-be has been warned on the eve of an ill-omened wedding, a signature and a ring on the finger matter not. The Islamic Republic cannot and will not change.
The ayatollahs’ bad behavior is rooted in their founding ideology. Post-deal Iran will continue doing what it has always done: arming and funding paramilitaries and terrorists, building up its missile arsenals, waging cyberwarfare, and fomenting global chaos.
Pro-Iran militants in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen are already licking their lips at the prospect of billions of dollars of new funding when financial reserves accruing to Iran around the world are unfrozen in the aftermath of a revived nuclear deal. That is what happened after 2015. It will happen again.
A new deal will therefore result in further regional destabilization: Iraq is already boiling as Iranian proxies seek provocation and confrontation on the streets of Baghdad; Houthi terrorists are incapable of abiding by ceasefire promises; as Lebanon drowns in poverty, Hezbollah provocations risk triggering region-wide war with Israel.
Through shallow and unstrategic policies, Biden is repeating all the mistakes he made in Afghanistan: sacrificing global security in a superficial attempt to reduce US foreign policy commitments.
Nor will the ayatollahs relent on campaigns of assassinations and abductions of dissidents and journalists overseas, or brazen plots to murder leading Trump-era officials such as John Bolton and Mike Pompeo — let alone their addiction to kidnapping dual nationals and demanding hundreds of millions of dollars in ransoms.
While there is an undeniable case for anything that halts Tehran’s 11th-hour sprint toward possessing a nuclear bomb, it must not blind us to the immediate consequences of such an agreement.
The new deal bends over backwards to appease Iran. In response to Tehran’s demands that a revived deal cannot be undermined by a future president, Biden apparently plans to render Iran immune to any future sanctions by writing into the deal that companies dealing with Iran would not be subject to sanctions for a full two-and-a-half years after any new punitive measures kicked in. The Revolutionary Guards may continue to be rightly defined as a terrorist group, but Western companies are apparently to be allowed to do business with its octopus-like web of mafioso front companies.
More outrageous still, Tehran would also receive what it calls an “inherent guarantee” that enables it to ramp up its uranium enrichment capacity rapidly if the US takes any action to revoke the deal once more. To achieve this, Iran will be allowed to hold on to centrifuges and electronic equipment in readiness to rapidly accelerate uranium enrichment.
Just think about that: If the US intimated that it could take action in response to any Iranian violations of its obligations, Tehran could immediately respond with a rapid intensification of uranium enrichment — an activity that has no conceivable peaceful purpose. Iran therefore has built-in incentives to violate the deal, and the West would be largely paralysed from responding, for fear of triggering Iranian nuclear breakout.
Even worse, many of the “sunset clauses” from the earlier deal are due to kick in shortly, which will gradually allow Iran to return to enrichment activities. It’s not clear that there’s anything the world could do about this — particularly as the above-discussed dynamics could incentivise Tehran to act deliberately provocatively.
This was a fatally flawed deal from the start because of elephant-in-the-room issues that it ignored, and Trump made matters 100 times worse by abrogating the deal without having a clue about how to effectively confront Iran. With entirely new generations of centrifuges and equipment, Iran responded by enriching uranium at unprecedented rates to ever-higher degrees of purity.
Biden wants a deal on the cheap for all the wrong reasons — seeking a quick fix, allowing the US to busy itself with crises elsewhere. Through shallow and unstrategic policies, Biden is repeating all the mistakes he made in Afghanistan: sacrificing global security in a superficial attempt to reduce US foreign policy commitments.
As occurred with the EU’s failed Russia policies, the ayatollahs relish a situation in which European states desperate for oil and gas become wholly dependent on them, rendering them immune to future Western pressures. Iran’s leaders probably feel doubly empowered at a time when both Russia and the West are competing to win their favor. This is a recipe for disaster.
Amid hideously inauspicious omens, various ill-matched parties are girding themselves to embark upon unholy matrimony. We can only hope not to be in the vicinity when these sorry tragedies hurtle toward the explosive and inevitable divorce.
• Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.