The Biden administration has decided to extend for another year Executive Order 12957, issued in 1995, which imposed a series of sanctions against Iran in response to the threat Iran posed to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the US. This decision, however, has failed to reduce the fears of many Arabs. They say that they remain skeptical about Washington’s policy toward the threats posed by the mullahs in Tehran. Pictured: US President Joe Biden at the White House on March 5, 2021, the day he extended Executive Order 12957. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
The Biden administration has decided to extend for another year the “national emergency” (Executive Order 12957), issued in 1995 in response to the threat Iran posed to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the US.
The Executive Order imposed a series of sanctions against Iran in response to its support for international terrorism, its efforts to undermine the Middle East peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, and its acquisition of nuclear weapons.
Last week, the White House announced that the “national emergency” must continue beyond March 15, 2021. It quoted President Joe Biden as saying that Iran’s actions continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the US. Iran, he added, continues to develop missiles and other asymmetric and conventional weapons capabilities. He also accused Iran of continuing to support terrorist groups throughout the world.
The U.S. president pointed out that Iran is continuing the “proliferation and development of missiles and other asymmetric and conventional weapons capabilities, its network and campaign of regional aggression, its support for terrorist groups, and the malign activities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its surrogates.”
President Biden’s decision to pursue the sanctions against Iran, however, has failed to reduce the fears of many Arabs. They say that they remain skeptical about Washington’s policy toward the threats posed by the mullahs in Tehran.
“President Biden should not tolerate Iran,” warned Saudi newspaper editor and writer Khaled bin Hamad al-Malek.
“He [Biden] should not make any concessions [to Iran] that do not serve stability in the region. Iran will continue with its tricks and deception to avoid sanctions and attempts to stop it from possessing a nuclear bomb that would pose a danger to countries in the region.”
Addressing the Biden administration, al-Malek wrote:
“Iran is an evil, terrorist, and rogue state, and it does not abide by what is agreed upon with it. Iran plants its proxies in most countries of the region to create chaos and consolidate its agenda and expansionist goals. There is no better option than using force with this terrorist state to force it to respect international conventions and obligating it not to harm its neighbors, which is what we expect from the Biden administration in order to maintain the security and stability of the region.”
Emirati political analyst and academic Dr. Salem Hameed warned the Biden administration against allowing itself to be deceived by the mullahs in Tehran.
Hameed expressed fear that the Biden administration would return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known commonly as the Iran nuclear deal, which was signed in 2015 only by the five permanent members of the United nations Security Council – China, Russia, Britain, France, the US – plus Germany and the European Union. The Iranians never signed the JCPOA deal.
“The current Iranian ploy aims to delude the American side into believing that Tehran wants to return to the agreement, but it cannot make concessions due to street pressure, so it needs Washington to drop the sanctions before starting any negotiations,” according to Hameed. Referring to the countries that signed the deal, Hameed added:
“Perhaps these countries, in order not to plunge the region into chaos, should develop continuous, unchanging strategies, because countries such as Iran take advantage of the pre- and post-election transitional state to rearrange their plans. With regards to Iran, it wants to pursue its goal of achieving nuclear weapons that threaten the region and the world.”
Prominent Saudi writer Mohamed al-Sheikh said he was doubtful whether Iran would change its policies now that Biden is in the White House.
“Iran’s mullahs are like dangerous poisonous snakes,” al-Sheikh cautioned. “The mullahs cannot be tamed unless their fangs are completely pulled out. President Biden does not seem to be aware of how dangerous they are.”
Al-Sheikh said that the Biden administration was hoping that by turning a blind eye to the crimes and human rights violations of the mullahs, Washington would “win the mullahs into the US camp.”
The Biden administration, “especially the left-wing of the Democratic Party, still hope to win the mullahs into their camp and pull them out of the Chinese-Russian camp,” he remarked.
“The mullahs of Iran are still dreaming of establishing the Great Persian Empire, and for the sake of this goal they are not averse to harnessing all efforts and funds to reach this goal, even if they are forced to be patient.”
Al-Sheikh added that he still could not understand why the Democrats were rushing to appease Iran while sacrificing Washington’s historic allies such as Israel and the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia.
Former Egyptian diplomat Amr Helmy lashed out at the Biden administration for “dropping” most of the 12 conditions that the Trump administration had set for returning to the nuclear agreement with Iran.
The conditions, announced in May 2020 by then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, require Iran, among other things, to stop enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing, provide the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with unqualified access to all its sites, end its proliferation of ballistic missiles, halt support to Middle East terrorist groups and end its threatening behavior against its neighbors.
Helmy argued that by abandoning these conditions the Biden administration was sending the wrong message to Iran:
“Iran has stepped up its pressure to exploit the US eagerness to resume negotiations with it over its nuclear program… The message Iran has received: the Biden administration is focused on reviving the policy applied by [former US President Barack] Obama and is backing down from the [policies] of the Trump administration.”
Iran, Helmy added, “will not stop the escalation in the region now that it understands that the new US administration will not hesitate to continue weakening Washington’s allies and prioritize the most dangerous adversaries who may not return to the negotiating table unless the US sanctions [on Iran] are lifted.”
Egyptian political analyst Dr. Tarek Fahmi said that Iran continues to pose a threat to the entire region, and not only Israel. Fahmi urged the Biden administration to review its policies and not rush into entering negotiations with Iran.
“Iran continues to threaten the security of the entire region, and not a specific country; this requires the US administration to re-examine its positions and not rush to enter into negotiations with Iran,” Fahmi wrote in an article headlined, “The wrong path of Biden’s policy toward Iran.”
He said that Iran will continue its maneuvers to obtain concessions from the Biden administration.
“US begging for negotiations [with Iran] will lead to more Iranian intransigence and promote its extremism,” Fahmi said. He warned that the US would be the “biggest loser” if Iran is allowed to continue with its maneuvers and threats against the security of the region.
“Despite all the negative positions of Iran, the US administration is still ready to re-engage in serious diplomacy to achieve a mutual return to compliance with the commitments of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” he added.
These voices from the Arab world are unmistakably articulating a growing fear over the Biden administration’s perceived weakness in dealing with the Iranian threat. Significantly, such voices seem to be shared by a large number of Arabs in different Arab countries — not only the Gulf states. Tellingly, the voices are speaking in unison to the Biden administration: pacify the mullahs in Tehran today, pay for the appeasement in blood tomorrow.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.
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