Iran’s stockpile of nuclear weapons and state-sponsored terrorism pose an immediate existential threat to humanity and must be addressed quickly and decisively. The consensus on this is clear. Yet by coming to the negotiating table with Iran before demanding accountability for threats against former US government officials, the Biden administration has undermined our nation’s hard-won strength as a global superpower.
Throughout history, the United States has cemented its place in the geopolitical landscape as the dominant global power by upholding democratic values and the rule of law not just through rhetoric, but through action. What is at stake in revising President Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal with Iran is the global perception of our power and our commitment to exercising power for integrity. With Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine as the backdrop to the current negotiations with Iran, this point is all the more salient. How should our adversaries or allies perceive us if history shows that our actions have repeatedly been reduced to mere words?
Iran since 2015 has only advanced its nuclear program. The Biden administration’s proposed deal would not require Iran to destroy its supply of advanced centrifuges and would allow it to stockpile them within its borders. This amounts to nuclear extortion against future US presidents who may seek to withdraw provisions from this current agreement.
During my years as Homeland Security Advisor to President George W. Bush, I was at the forefront of the terrors perpetrated by Iran. Today, my determination to raise awareness of alternative actions to succeed in blunting the terrorist regime is all the stronger. I joined as co-chairman of Iran’s Threat Commission on Hostage Taking and Targeting of Civilians, a bipartisan group motivated to end the Islamic Republic’s hostage diplomacy.
Along with Barry Rosen, founder of the Iran Threat Commission and survivor of the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, and other members of the commission, I am appalled by media reports of closed-door briefings which indicate important concessions for Iran not only on missile proliferation. , but violations of human rights.
The proposed iteration of the nuclear deal will also lift terrorism-related sanctions against the central bank, the oil ministry, Iran’s national oil company and, most alarmingly, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). .
The IRGC supports foreign terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen with military technology and weaponry, enabling their frequent attacks against our allies in the Middle East and their own civilians. Removing the IRGC from the list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations would undermine all US counterterrorism efforts and show blatant disregard for the lives of IRGC victims around the world. Additionally, the Biden administration’s willingness to negotiate with Iran despite intelligence reports of Iranian assassination attempts against former US government officials, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former National Security Advisor John Bolton and Brian Hook, former US Special Representative for Iran, is an affront to all American citizens.
During these negotiations, Iran requested sanctions relief for matters unrelated to its nuclear capabilities. In 2015, Iran got a break on nuclear-related sanctions. However, the United States retained the power to sanction Iran for, among other things, human rights abuses. If Iran’s demands are met this time around, America’s power to impose such sanctions at large would be severely blunted.
These are not just talking points; we face real consequences. My fellow members of the Iran Threat Commission who have suffered at the hands of the Iranian regime know that negotiations mean little when a government fails to respect the rule of law and fundamental principles of human rights.
Nuclear non-proliferation for Iran is a must. But the current stipulations will only serve as a propaganda victory for the Iranian regime. Iran will continue to manipulate US diplomacy until the US government holds it accountable, especially on issues beyond Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Our government must abide by its sanctions on Iran, or risk greater collateral damage than any foreign policy expert could even predict.
A saying emerged from US-Iranian relations in the midst of the 1978 Iranian revolution: “You should not come to the negotiating table if the person sitting across from that table has a gun in their lap. A negotiation in good faith does not require any preconditions on the part of Iran. This would force the regime to stop targeting US officials. No subject should be prohibited.
If the successful disarmament of Iran is a priority for our current government leaders, they would be wise to ask themselves if an agreement reached at gunpoint is an agreement the world can count on.
Frances Townsend served as the third United States Homeland Security Advisor from 2004 to 2008.