Israel was able to withstand unrelenting pressure and hostility from Washington during the Obama years. Will it be able to do the same after Biden takes office?
In an interview with the New York Times last month, President-elect Joe Biden restated his intention to return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Israel opposes this plan because the 2015 deal ensures Iran will become a nuclear-armed state.
Media reports over the past few weeks have detailed some of Israel’s plans to convince the incoming administration to reconsider its position. Among other things, the government intends to use documents from Iran’s nuclear archive that Mossad agents spirited out of Tehran in 2018, to show Biden and his advisers that the 2015 deal was based on the incorrect assumption that Iran’s nuclear program was defensive and civilian.
The archive proves incontrovertibly that Iran’s nuclear program was conceived and has always been about making nuclear bombs, not medical isotopes. And that the purpose of a nuclear arsenal is not to defend against its enemies, but to obliterate them.
Although Israel’s case is rock solid, it is unlikely to convince the Biden team to change course. Even without the benefit of the archive, there was massive evidence five years ago that Iran’s actions and intentions in relation to its illicit nuclear program were aggressive. Israel shared that evidence with the Obama administration, and Barack Obama and his advisers didn’t care. They drove forward and demonized Israeli leaders and their American supporters as warmongers.
The same people who dismissed Israel’s evidence then are now leading Biden’s national security team.
On Tuesday, Biden announced he was appointing William Burns to serve as CIA Director. The announcement followed Biden’s decision to appoint Jake Sullivan to serve as his national security adviser.
Obama appointed Burns and Sullivan to hold secret nuclear talks with Iran behind the backs of US allies Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Those talks led to the deal which provided Iran with an open path to a nuclear arsenal by 2025. It permitted the regime to enrich uranium. It didn’t touch Iran’s ballistic missile program. It gave Iran the power to decide which nuclear sites UN inspectors could enter. And it gave Iran a direct payoff of $150 billion dollars, including $1.7 billion in cash.
Biden appointed Wendy Sherman, who served as the chief negotiator of the open nuclear talks with Iran to serve as his deputy secretary of state.
Burns was a reasonable choice to lead secret talks with Iran because he had a long track record of treating Iran well and Israel poorly. During George W. Bush’s administration, Burns served as assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs. According to officials who worked with him in that position, Burns advocated against sanctioning Syria and Iran. He undermined sanctions against Yemen. He also tried to prevent Israel’s development of the Arrow missile defense system, by claiming falsely that it violated the Missile Technology Control Regime, (MTCR).