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Rejoining Iran nuclear deal would repeat U.S. mistakes in Afghanistan

By Struan Stevenson
Rejoining Iran nuclear deal would repeat U.S. mistakes in Afghanistan
New Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi kisses the holy Koran after being sworn in at parliament in Tehran on August 5. Photo by Maryam Rahmanian/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Following the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, international observers must be shaking their heads in bewilderment at the floundering attempts by the United States and European Union to restore the moribund nuclear deal with Iran.

Surely the West has learned a harsh lesson in foreign policy failure after the chaotic, deadly scenes in Kabul. Surely, they do not wish to repeat that failure with the restoration of the Iranian nuclear deal.

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Signed with the Iranian regime in 2015 by America, Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain, the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, masterminded by Barack Obama as his last-ditch keynote foreign policy achievement, was a failure from the outset. Obama naively believed that the release of $150 billion of frozen Iranian assets, as part of the nuclear agreement, would put bread back on the table for Iran's starving citizens.

Instead, the mullahs diverted most of the cash to funding Bashar al-Assad's brutal civil war in Syria, with additional resources split between the Houthi rebels in Yemen, the terrorist Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine and the vicious Shi'ia militias in Iraq. The little money that was left was shoveled, as usual, into the kleptocratic ayatollahs' personal bank accounts. The Iranian people got nothing.

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The nuclear deal was a grave error from day one. It forbade inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency from inspecting any sites controlled by the military inside Iran. Virtually all the theocratic regime's secret nuclear program was being developed in military sites, so the deal was fatally flawed. Page after page of the JCPOA read like a telephone directory, listing names of Iranian companies and individuals from whom all sanctions were to be lifted, including business and industries like banking, insurance, metals, aviation, shipping, arms and general trade markets, even covering the reopening of Iran's right to sell carpets and caviar to the West.

Ludicrously, Obama's deal even ordered the West to end its "exclusion of Iranian citizens from higher education coursework related to careers in nuclear science, nuclear engineering or the energy sector." In other words, Western universities would be encouraged to train Iranians in advanced nuclear technology to ensure that they were properly equipped to build a nuclear bomb. U.S. President Donald Trump denounced the deal even before he became president and withdrew America from the JCPOA unilaterally in May 2018.

Trump's withdrawal from the deal coincided with a reimposition of tough sanctions in what he termed his "maximum pressure" campaign. Trump's secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, emphasized that any return to the JCPOA would involve mandatory inspections at all sites requested by international inspectors, while ensuring that Iran never came close to possessing a nuclear weapon.

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Unlike the flawed Obama nuclear deal, Pompeo insisted that the provisions in the JCPOA must have no expiration date and Iran's development and testing of ballistic missiles must be subject to severe sanctions. Pompeo also demanded an end to the theocratic regime's financing and support for proxy wars across the Middle East, an end to its sponsorship of international terror and for major improvements to its human rights record in Iran.

The European Union and its then top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, went into meltdown at the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA, repeatedly assuring the mullahs that they supported the deal and were doing everything possible to navigate their way around Trump's U.S. sanctions. Mogherini visited Tehran, wore the headscarf in simpering acquiescence to the mullahs' misogyny, and even posed for selfies with turbaned members of the Iranian parliament.

When Mogherini was replaced by Josep Borrell, the socialist former foreign minister of Spain, things got even worse. Borrell's first visit in his new role as the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security was to Tehran, where he pledged to restore the nuclear deal. When an accredited Iranian diplomat, Assadollah Assadi, was arrested and charged with terrorist offencss in Europe, Borrell said nothing. When Assadi was sentenced to 20 years in jail for handing a fully primed bomb to his co-conspirators and instructing them to detonate it at a mass Iranian opposition rally in Paris, attended by leading international U.S. and EU political figures, Borrell again said nothing.

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Borrell even sent his deputy, Enrique Mora, to Tehran to attend the inauguration as president on Aug. 5 of Ebrahim Raisi, the so-called "Butcher of Tehran," notorious for his involvement in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners, most of whom were supporters of the main opposition People's Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The inauguration ceremony took place less than a week after a British and a Romanian national were killed in an Iranian drone strike on an Israel-operated oil tanker in the Arabian sea, after which Borrell again made no comment. Israel slammed the decision of the European Union to send a senior diplomat to the swearing-in ceremony calling the decision "shameful, puzzling and showing poor judgment."

The Brussels-based nongovernmental organization In Search of Justice, which campaign for human rights, democracy, peace and stability in Iran, has written to Borrell, stating, "We know that you are the coordinator of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but it is surely unthinkable that the EU should waste any further energy on trying to resurrect this defunct and moribund nuclear deal? Talks in Vienna have stalled at Iran's insistence that all sanctions imposed by former President Donald Trump under his 'maximum pressure' campaign must be lifted before any negotiations can take place. The deal was a failure from the outset and never stopped the mullahs' determined efforts to build a nuclear bomb. Lifting sanctions would simply re-energize the corrupt regime, reinvigorating their sponsorship of proxy wars and international terrorism."

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The ISJ letter to Borrell continued: "With the EU's adoption of the Global Human Rights Sanctions regime in December 2020, the time has come for appeasement to end and for the EU to demand the indictment and prosecution of Ebrahim Raisi and the other mass murderers who have ruled Iran for the past four decades. Turning a blind eye to the brutal suppression and escalating death toll in Iran simply provides impunity to this criminal regime, encouraging them to slaughter more people."

The foreign policy debacle in Afghanistan has cast a shadow over the Biden administration. U.S. President Joe Biden and his secretary of state, Antony Blinken, can restore some semblance of credibility if they abandon attempts to resurrect the JCPOA and show support for the Iranian people, rather than their murderous government.

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). Struan is also chair of the In Search of Justice committee on the protection of political freedoms in Iran. He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.

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The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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