Iran's new president, Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a press conference in Tehran on June 21. Photo by Maryam Rahmanian/UPI | License Photo
June 28 (UPI) -- It surely cannot be a case of "business as usual" with Iran after the sham election of a president linked to mass murders? The Biden administration appears desperate to resume talks in Vienna aimed at re-establishing the deeply flawed and now wholly redundant nuclear deal.
Iran's newly elected president, the so-called "Butcher of Tehran" Ebrahim Raisi, notorious for his role in the death commissions responsible for the 1988 massacre of more than 30,000 political prisoners, has crowed that he will never meet U.S. President Joe Biden. Raisi has nevertheless demanded that the Americans lift all the sanctions imposed by former President Donald Trump under his "maximum pressure" campaign, when he unilaterally withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action deal.
Facing the reality of its looming downfall, the theocratic dictatorship and its elderly supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei need sanctions to end so that they can reboot Iran's bankrupt economy, refinance their proxy wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Gaza and revive their ongoing program to build a nuclear bomb.
They also need mammoth funds to placate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the regime's Gestapo, who do all their dirty work. The mullahs have boasted how they have accelerated the enrichment of uranium to 60% purity, a hair's breadth away from fissile capacity. They have repeatedly test-fired powerful ballistic missiles, capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. Borrowing tactics lifted straight from Kim Jong Un's North Korean playbook, they are using the nuclear threat to blackmail the West into making major concessions. For the mullahs, a nuclear weapon is a key survival strategy. It would be an unforgivable sign of weakness for the West to succumb to such intimidation.
Of course, China and Russia are urging the Americans to concede. Firm allies of the clerical regime, both Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping were among the first to offer their warm congratulations to Raisi. Biden and his Secretary of State Antony Blinken should take a close look at the list of countries who welcomed Raisi's election. They included Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Belarus, Syria, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hamas in Gaza and the terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon. As the famous saying goes, "With friends like these, you don't need enemies."
Biden and Blinken must surely think long and hard before they kowtow to the wishes of this unsavory collection of totalitarian states, dictatorships, tyrannical autocracies and terrorist groups. It is deeply depressing that the other signatories to former U.S. President Barack Obama's JCPOA, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, seem to be equally determined to see the deal raised from the dead.
Trump's term in office was not covered in glory. However, he was absolutely right about Obama's nuclear deal. In October 2019, the U.S. State Department published a 48-page report titled "OUTLAW REGIME: A Chronicle of Iran's Destructive Activities." In a foreword, Trump's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained why the president had decided to withdraw from the JCPOA, calling it "a failed strategic bet that fell short of protecting the American people or our allies from the potential of an Iranian nuclear weapon."
He pointed out that Obama's deal had "plainly failed to contribute to regional and international peace and security." In fact, he said, "Iran's destabilizing behavior has grown bolder under the deal." Pompeo said, "We are asking every nation who is sick and tired of the Islamic Republic's destructive behavior to join our pressure campaign. This especially goes for our allies in the Middle East and Europe, people who have themselves been terrorized by the violent regime's activity for decades."
Pompeo's remarks were a grim reminder of the case of the accredited Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, sent from Tehran to Europe in 2018, on a commercial airliner, with a fully primed terrorist bomb in his diplomatic pouch. Assadi and three co-conspirators were sentenced to long jail terms for terrorism and attempted murder after they were caught red-handed attempting to bomb a huge National Council of Resistance of Iran opposition rally in Paris. The rally had been attended by hundreds of prominent and respected Western politicians, who would have been killed and maimed by the device had the plot succeeded.
It was clear that such a heinous outrage could only have been planned and sanctioned at the highest levels within the mullahs' regime. Many Iran watchers were astonished when the European Union made no attempt to censor or hold the regime to account for this terrorist horror and instead redoubled its efforts to reinstate the nuclear deal.
Such blatant acts of appeasement have emboldened the mullahs and reinforced their view that the EU, United States and United Nations are weak and do not have the guts to confront their terrorist regime. The engineered sham election of the thug Raisi, is the clearest evidence yet that the clerical regime intends to exploit Western weakness to the full, insisting on the complete lifting of sanctions, while they race ahead with enhanced uranium enrichment, together with the manufacture of bomb components and missile delivery systems.
The Iranian regime has pressed on with clandestine bomb-making activities before, during and after the JCPOA was signed. The deeply defective terms of the 2015 agreement prohibited inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency from entering military sites run by the IRGC. Those are, of course, the very sites where nearly all of the secret nuclear activity is undertaken. The agreement also made no mention of the Iranian regime's aggressive expansionism and involvement in proxy wars in the region, its export on terrorism internationally, or indeed its violence and murderous activities against its own people inside Iran.
Raisi has made it clear that he will not tolerate any interference in his regime's foreign policy or domestic arrangements, or even its ballistic missile program. His offer on the table in Vienna appears to be lift all sanctions against us in return for the pretext that we will stop building a nuclear bomb, while we happily continue to oppress our population, spread war and violence to our neighbors and continue in the role of international godfather of terror. As the famous quotation says, "If you keep knocking on the devil's door, sooner or later he'll let you in."
Struan Stevenson is the coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.