Iran, China and Russia inevitably welcome opportunities to exploit America’s incompetent, incoherent, and impotent global leadership exhibited by President Biden and top generals who masterminded the spectacularly disastrous U.S. Afghanistan withdrawal as each of these key adversaries work together to establish regional hegemony ambitions.
No clearer ongoing evidence of dangerously misguided foreign policy weakness exists than the Biden administration’s feckless attempt to re-up America into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more broadly known as the "Iran nuclear deal," which President Donald Trump prudently terminated.
From the very beginning, that 2015 Obama administration JCPOA was never any sort of real deal to suppress nuclear threats posed by Tehran mullahs. It placed no sanctions on Iran missile development activity or Hezbollah and proxy militia terrorist aggressions in the Middle East and beyond. It also failed to enforce restrictions on nuclear weapon-grade enrichment progress, and would have elapsed in 2031 in any case.
It’s already too late for a JCPOA redux to make any significant difference. Iran’s nuclear program is reportedly within months of having produced enough sufficiently 90% enriched uranium fuel for a bomb.
Nevertheless, last November, fully recognizing that Biden desperately wants bragging rights to a deal — any deal — subject to all terms dictated by them, Tehran representatives left the Vienna negotiating table unimpressed and ungrateful when the U.S. floated the idea of a bargaining offer to allow Iran to sell electricity to Iraq in exchange for JCPOA reinstatement.
With humiliating unconcealed contempt for U.S. weakness, the mullahs have even refused to authorize direct discussions with White House representatives — mostly Obama administration holdovers.
This snub forced European diplomats (Britain, Germany and France), to shuttle back and forth in surrogate "go-between" hotel meetings in Vienna where Biden team negotiators were ensconced separately.
Nor is there any indication that the mullahs care much whether the Obama bunch behind Biden approve of their rapid emergence as a regional nuclear threat or not. These are the same U.S. foreign policy pushovers who previously failed to hold Iran accountable for refusing to allow U.N. nuclear inspectors to monitor that progress.
Richard Nephew, the U.S. deputy special envoy for Iran who, as previous advocate for tougher economic sanctions, has since quit the negotiating team over objections to current chief negotiator Robert Malley’s soft stance.
Whereas Malley said in January that the U.S. was unlikely to strike a deal if four U.S. citizens currently held hostage by Tehran aren’t released, he also incredulously claimed that those negotiations are separate from nuclear talks.
Recall that the Obama administration airlifted $400 million in cash to Iran as the regime released four detained Americans.
On Feb. 4, Secretary of State Antony Blinken restored sanctions waivers on Iranian civilian nuclear activity that the Trump administration had rescinded in 2020 which will now exempt foreign companies working with Tehran on such projects from economic penalties.
Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian responded that the latest U.S. concessions were “good, but not enough.”
Meanwhile, as U.S. and European officials have decided to plow on with the negotiations, Beijing has been openly buying Iranian oil in defiance of existing U.S. sanctions.
As U.S. sanction enforcement eased, Iran’s oil exports began recovering last year. Of an estimated 418 million barrels — 123 million barrels more than in 2020 — three-quarters of this Iranian oil was exported to China which purchased 310 million barrels.
Iran is important to Beijing for economic and strategic reasons. In addition to being heavily dependent on its oil, in the event of an attack on Taiwan, China will look to Tehran and its proxies to mount threats to American shipping supply lines and military carrier groups in the Persian Gulf.
Then there’s also that broader “Iran-China-Russia problem.”
As Mahmoud Abbaszadeh-Meshkini, a spokesman for the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said on Jan. 26: “In the new world order, a triangle consisting of three powers — Iran, Russia, and China — has formed,” one that “heralds the end of the inequitable hegemony of the United States and the West.”
Speaking during Jan, 21 Geneva meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who proposed a weak interim deal to break the deadlock in the Iranian nuclear negotiations, Secretary Blinken urged, “and we hope that Russia will use the influence ... it has with Iran to impress upon Iran that sense of urgency.”
Lavrov’s proposal would simply call upon Iran to reduce its stockpiles of enriched uranium in return for again lifting sanctions, allowing Tehran to continue generating fissile materials and expand proxy wars.
As those discussions were occurring, Russia was holding joint naval drills with China and Iran in the Indian Ocean.
The day before those meetings, President Vladimir Putin had hosted Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Moscow, who in a speech before the Duma, discussed “Resistance”—the movement Iran leads to destroy the U.S.-led order in the Middle East.
Putin’s current campaign to bring Ukraine under Moscow’s control has a direct connection to the joint Russian-Iranian project of propping up the Assad regime in Syria, where Russia’s naval base in Tartus serves — along with one in Sevastopol, Crimea (which Mr. Putin annexed from Ukraine in 2014), serve as important operational hubs for Russia’s Mediterranean presence.
A strong, independent Ukraine threatens Moscow’s ability to project power into the Middle East.
Iran, China and Russia leaders have indeed wasted no time exploiting Biden administration weakness, so dramatically evidenced by the Afghanistan debacle that abandoned hundreds of Americans and more than $80 billion of advanced military equipment to Taliban control, along with ongoing desperate pursuit of JCPOA.
Fully expect that Moscow, Beijing and Tehran will continue to aggressively leverage combined powers and spheres of influence to test Biden administration responses.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture and the graduate space architecture program. His latest of 11 books, "Beyond Flagpoles and Footprints: Pioneering the Space Frontier" co-authored with Buzz Aldrin (2021), is available on Amazon along with all others. Read Larry Bell's Reports — More Here.
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