Biden Shatters Israel's Delusions | Opinion

For decades, senior Israeli defense officials beat a path to the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA and the National Security Council with briefcases full of documents providing conclusive proof that Iran's nuclear program is a military program and that its purpose is to transform the Islamic Republic of Iran into a nuclear-armed state. The officers arrived in Washington convinced that the smoking gun they were providing the Americans would compel Washington to abandon its long-held delusion that there is a "grand bargain" to be had with the fanatical Islamist theocracy whose leaders believe that Iran's rise will herald an era of unmitigated Shiite global domination.

All of the Israeli officers made their best cases to their American counterparts. Most believed the Americans were open to the information they provided, and left Washington convinced that the Americans finally recognized the danger and would act to block Iran from achieving its nefarious goal. On at least one occasion, their efforts were rewarded.

In 2018, after Israel's Mossad spy agency spirited Iran's nuclear archive out of a warehouse in Tehran and brought it to Israel, Israel's spy chiefs flew to Washington to share the findings with the Trump administration. The documents provided incontrovertible proof of Israel's long-standing contentions that Iran's nuclear program was initiated, maintained and expanded throughout the years for the primary purpose of developing nuclear weapons. Then-President Donald Trump responded to Israel's revelations by withdrawing the U.S from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—the nuclear deal the Obama administration had concluded with Iran.

The 2015 nuclear deal placed certain restrictions on Iran's nuclear activities for a limited period. But the JCPOA allowed Iran to continue with its nuclear research and development, and placed no restrictions on Iran's missile development and proliferation. In other words, Barack Obama's deal limited what Iran could do with the nuclear capabilities it had acquired by 2015, but it enabled Iran to massively expand its nuclear capabilities for the future.

During the early years of the JCPOA, Iran developed second-generation centrifuges capable of enriching uranium 10 times faster than it was able to enrich in 2015—and to much higher levels of purity. Iran began deploying the new advanced centrifuges as soon as they were ready, even before Trump abandoned the JCPOA and reinstated the nuclear sanctions the Obama administration had suspended in 2015.

After abandoning the JCPOA, Trump and then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced their "maximum pressure" campaign of harsh sanctions on the Iranian regime. The campaign intended to block the regime from waging war against its neighbors, either directly or through its proxies, and to deter it from attacking U.S. forces and assets in the region.

The maximum pressure strategy was working effectively when Trump left office. Had it been retained by the Biden administration, Iran's regime would likely have collapsed by this year, rendering its nuclear weapons program dead in the water. But rather than continue a policy that was working, President Joe Biden reinstated Barack Obama's policy of facilitating Iran's nuclear program and its regional aggression by agitating for a restoration of American and Iranian compliance with the 2015 deal.

Biden appointed Robert Malley, a former Obama administration nuclear negotiator who had developed strong ties with the Iranian regime during his tenure at the helm of the International Crisis Group, to serve as his envoy to renewed nuclear negotiations with Iran. Both before the talks were initiated in Vienna, and since the talks commenced, in the interests of convincing Iran to agree to a deal, Biden ended enforcement of the most significant sanctions Trump had placed on Iran's nuclear operations. He delisted Iran's Yemeni proxy, the Houthis, from the State Department's formal list of foreign terrorist organizations. And Biden convinced U.S. allies to unfreeze Iranian funds held in their banks due to Iran's sponsorship of terrorism, in the hopes of proving his benign intentions to the ayatollahs.

This brings us back to the Israeli military officers who have come and gone through the corridors of power in Washington for the past two decades, bearing proof of Iran's malign intentions and actions. During Obama's presidency, then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was often the lone voice in Israeli leadership circles warning that the Obama administration had no intention of blocking Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed power. For eight years, Netanyahu fought with the Israeli defense establishment, whose leaders continued to believe that Americans from both sides of the partisan aisle could be trusted when they said they would not permit Iran to become a nuclear power.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the February jobs report during an event at the White House complex March 4, 2022 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Last June, Netanyahu was ousted from power by a narrow coalition of small parties hailing from the establishment right to the far left to the Muslim Brotherhood. Current Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz came into office promising not to publicly criticize Biden's nuclear diplomacy with Iran, and even voicing support for a renewed agreement with the mullahs. The Israeli security establishment, which long opposed Netanyahu's doctrine of muscular public diplomacy and independent action to block Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, felt vindicated.

Over the past several months, as nuclear talks have dragged on in Vienna, Israel's dovish new leaders kept to their word. Opposition to rumors of U.S. concessions was voiced politely, and generally in private. Senior military and intelligence officers continued to travel to Washington with their briefcases, brimming with documents and believing it was in their power to shift the U.S. position at the negotiating table in Vienna. Netanyahu's frequent warnings that now is no time for silence were dismissed as the ravings of a bitter, spurned leader.

But then, last Wednesday, Gabriel Noronha, a former Iran specialist at the State Department, published details of the concessions Malley has already agreed to on his Twitter feed. Noronha wrote that he received the details of the U.S. concessions from his former colleagues at the State Department and National Security Council, as well as from the European Union delegations to the talks. Noronha wrote that his associates, all "career" officers rather than political appointees, "are so concerned with the concessions being made by Rob Malley in Vienna that they've allowed me to publish some details of the coming deal in the hopes that Congress will act to stop the capitulation."

Malley's capitulation includes delisting Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps from the State Department's list of Foreign Terror Organizations and ending U.S. sanctions on Iran's senior terror masters—including the terror chiefs responsible for the massacre of 241 U.S. Marines at the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 and the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994, where 85 people were killed.

Malley has agreed to end sanctions on 112 entities and people tied to Iranian dictator Ali Khamenei, through which Khamenei has accrued massive wealth and organized Iran's global terror and weapons procurement networks. Malley is willing to end sanctions on Iranian entities and individuals involved in the torture and murder of Iranian civilians.

All told, Noronha's colleagues said Malley has agreed to sanctions relief that will provide Iran with an immediate cash infusion of $90 billion, as well as an additional $50-55 billion annually in oil and gas profits.

On the nuclear front, beyond a few formalities, Biden's deal will enable Iran to move full-speed ahead with its development of advanced centrifuges and continue its race to the nuclear finish line. All limitations—which are largely unenforceable—will be removed in two and a half years. And Iran's nuclear program, which constitutes a material breach of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of which Iran is a signatory, will be legitimated by the UN and the U.S. government.

All of these concessions guarantee two consequences. First, Iran will go to war. As U.S. Army Col. (res.) Joel Rayburn, who served as Trump's envoy to Syria and in a range of senior positions related to the Middle East in Central Command, the National Security Council and the State Department explained in a recent interview with Newsweek, with the JCPOA's implementation in 2015, Iran received billions of dollars in sanctions relief. It used the funds to expand its wars against Israel, against U.S. forces deployed in the Middle East and against Iran's Sunni Arab neighbors the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Iran fought its various foes both directly and through its proxies in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

The $90 billion that Malley and his colleagues in the Biden administration are poised to now give Iran guarantee that Iran will massively escalate its aggression against these actors.

The second consequence of the new nuclear deal is that Iran will become a nuclear-armed state unless Israel attacks and destroys a sufficient number of Iran's nuclear installations to significantly scale back Iran's nuclear capabilities.

And so we return to Israel's security brass. The most powerful shock wave Noronha's revelations produced is the one going through Israel's military high command. Israel's military leaders can no longer deny the truth that they have gone to near-superhuman heights to wish away for 20 years. Netanyahu, it turns out, was right all along.

The contest between Iran and Israel pits a country of 90 million against a country of nine million; a theocratic regional hegemon with manifold foreign legions against a liberal democracy with no aspirations for territorial conquest. And under the Biden administration, the U.S. is standing with the Iranians.

Caroline B. Glick is a senior columnist at Israel Hayom and the author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East, (Crown Forum, 2014). From 1994 to 1996, she served as a core member of Israel's negotiating team with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.