2022 saw the likelihood of a nuclear deal between the US and Iran fade
By Benjamin Weinthal
The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, reportedly rejected President Biden’s efforts to make broad economic concessions to the Iranian regime in 2022 in order to temporarily halt Tehran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.
The clerical regime’s provision of deadly drones to Russia in its war against Ukraine, combined with the waves of anti-regime protesters flooding the streets, threw a wrench into the White House’s eager nuclear arms negotiations with Tehran.
Iran nuclear deal
The nuclear agreement would provide Tehran “access to up to $275 billion in financial benefits during its first year in effect and $1 trillion by 2030,” according to one Washington D.C., think tank study.
The administration through its Iran envoy, Robert Malley, invested significant resources for most of 2022 in an attempt to reach an agreement by conducting indirect talks with Iran in Vienna and Doha. Those talks seemed to falter in September when Iran scoffed at a deal that was said to be agreed by all sides.
But Iran observers argue the White House also hadn’t bargained for an unexpected factor in those indirect discussions with the Iranians: the nationwide protests that would begin a few days after Iran turned its back on a deal in mid-September.
Fox News Digital conducted interviews with multiple Iranians in Iran via an encrypted line over the last few weeks, all rejecting the Iran nuclear accord because, they argue, it will mainstream Iran’s regime on the international stage and fill Tehran’s coffers with billions of dollars to terrorize the population.
Arash, who lives in the Iranian city of Isfahan and used a different name to protect himself from the regime’s security forces, told Fox News Digital that if he could speak with President Biden he would ask for the American “withdrawal of negotiations that the U.S. is holding with the Islamic Republic. Right now people of Iran are getting killed on the streets. This regime is an absolute dictatorship.”
He added, “When the Obama administration gave billions to the Islamic Republic [in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal], the Islamic Republic only used it to suppress people and fund terrorism.” said Arash, urging the international community to expel the ambassadors of the Islamic Republic.
While the Iran deal had significant flaws and was actually stagnating because the United States couldn’t accept the mullahs’ absurd demands, Lisa Daftari, editor-in-chief of The Foreign Desk, told Fox News Digital that “the Iranian people and their protests over the last 100 days have been successful in at least pressuring the United States to create some distance.”
The Biden administration, she pointed out, “has stated that they will not be moving toward the deal at this time, but they have stopped short of canceling negotiations entirely and moving toward supporting regime change, which is what the Iranian people want.”
The Trump administration’s decision to leave the nuclear agreement was criticized last week by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who stated, “And when the JCPOA, the Iran nuclear deal, was actually enforced, it did exactly what it was designed to do. It contained Iran’s nuclear program. Without going into detail, he continued, “We’ll keep looking and doing things to make sure that, one way or another, Iran does not get a nuclear weapon.
In 2018, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was terminated by then-President Trump because, in his administration’s view, it did not prevent the clerical regime from developing a nuclear weapon device and allowed Tehran to finance terrorism.
The Biden administration and its European counterparts are engaging in wishful thinking that a nuclear agreement can be reached and they won’t have to worry about the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, Iran expert Alireza Nader said in a statement to Fox News Digital. The Biden administration’s desperation regarding the Islamic Republic is demonstrated by this. Beyond nuclear negotiations, Biden has no other ideas.
When asked if the Biden administration is wedded to an allegedly flawed nuclear deal at the expense of supporting pro-democracy protesters on the streets of Iran, a U.S. State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital, “The door for diplomacy will always remain open, but as of now, we don’t see a deal coming together anytime soon and it is not our focus.”
That same sentiment was shared by Secretary of State Blinken during his press conference last week.
In November, Iran’s nuclear chief said that the country had reached 60% enrichment of uranium at its Fordow enrichment plant, marking a dangerous step closer to the country’s goal of obtaining nuclear weapons. Weapons require 90% purity, but the level Iran has reached far exceeds its 20% produced prior to the 2015 nuclear deal, meaning the country far exceeded the 3.67% cap the deal had mandated.
World’s worst state-sponsor of terrorism
Iran’s Surpreme Leader Khamenei further defied the Biden administration in 2022 by seeking to assassinate Iranian dissidents in the U.S. and across the world. Iran’s assassination operation targeted top officials from the Trump administration, including former U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, as well as former National Security Advisor John Bolton.
The U.S. government has, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, repeatedly classified Tehran as the worst international state-sponsor of terrorism. Iran’s rulers have advocated a “world without America…is attainable” and wish “Death to America.”
The regime’s efforts to kidnap the Iranian-American women’s rights campaigner and Voice of America journalist, Masih Alinejad, in Brooklyn, New York, added to Tehran’s alleged nefarious activities in 2022. Alinejad has waged a campaign over the years to secure freedom for women from the compulsory wearing of the hijab in the Islamic Republic.
Fox News Digital reported in March that the Biden administration offered to delist Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization in exchange for Tehran’s agreement to rejoin the nuclear accord.
The deep concession to Iran’s regime sparked widespread outrage, because the IRGC is accused of being responsible for the murders of over 600 American military personnel in the Middle East.
After a public outcry and protests from 900 Gold Start family members, among others, the administration was forced to backpedal the concession to Iran. The interplay between the Iran nuclear deal and Khamenei’s funding of global terrorism has been a source of great criticism from opponents of the JCPOA.
Manda Zand Ervin, who former President George W. Bush appointed as the U.S. Delegate to the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women in 2008, noted that the billions of dollars the Obama administration funneled to Iran’s regime as part of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal went “to our enemies Hamas, Hezbollah and his [Khamenei’s] terrorist Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and others.”
The Biden administration and anti-regime protests
Iranian-Americans and Iranians within the country, who have long championed an Iran free from the mullahs who rule with an iron fist, have placed question marks over Biden’s human rights promises.
Blinken announced in March 2021 that “President Biden has committed to putting human rights back at the center of American foreign policy, and that’s a commitment that I and the entire the Department of State take very seriously.”
Iran expert, Nader said the White House “never had a plan B. Even though the Iranians are trying to overthrow the Islamic Republic, the Biden administration is not doing very much to help them.”
The Islamic Republic has been engulfed by protests since the nation’s infamous morality police allegedly tortured and killed the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September for not complying with the country’s hijab law.
The founder of the Islamic Republic, Ruhollah Khomeini, brought about a radical Islamic revolution in 1979 that toppled the pro-American Pahlavi monarchy. Khomeini’s regime swiftly enforced the segregation of genders and imposed the forced hijab, or headscarf, on women.
When asked if the Biden administration will impose new sanctions targeting Iran’s regime, a State Department spokesman told Fox News Digital, “Robust U.S. sanctions remain in place, and we will continue to vigorously enforce them. We continue to coordinate with a wide range of international partners to respond to Iran’s state-sponsored violence against women and the government’s ongoing, violent crackdown on peaceful protesters.”
Mojtaba Babaei, a spokesperson for the Iran Mission at the United Nations, told Fox News Digital, “Based on the statements of the U.S. State Department spokesperson that you mentioned, Iran’s Mission at U.N. takes the following position: There’s no new policy here. For the past four decades, the U.S. has maintained a hostile policy towards Iran, and this policy has been implemented as much as their capacity and capabilities permit.”
Tina Ghazimorad, the editor-in-chief of news at the London-based Manoto Farsi language TV channel, told Fox News Digital, “What is immediately required is for the West to seriously dismantle the financial operations of the regime and its cronies in the West, not meaningless sanctions that can’t be implemented. What is needed most, is for the regime to be hit in the pocket, only then concessions inside Iran will follow.”
Added she, “The crackdown has been brutally harsh. Even the most innocent and peaceful actions or gestures can have disastrous results. Even women, the elderly, children, and innocent bystanders are not exempt. Only the bravery and ingenuity of the Iranian youth are keeping the protests going in such a setting. It is crucial that the momentum lasts, but without some noticeable progress, fatigue may set in.”
Iran supplies lethal drones to Russia
Fox News Digital reported in November that the Iranian regime provided Russia with more than 3,500 drones to carry out its illegitimate war against Ukraine. The Biden administration’s willingness to cooperate with Putin’s government in order to achieve a nuclear agreement with Iran is still very contentious.
While the [Biden] administration has been supporting Ukraine, Khamenei is giving drones to his friend Putin, and yet President Biden is still talking about negotiations, with Putin serving as the middleman with Khamenei, according to Zand Ervin, author of “The Ladies’ Secret Society: History of the Courageous Women of Iran.”
Along with the United States, France, Germany, the EU, and China, Russia is a major player in the talks in Vienna to resurrect the Iran nuclear agreement.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson told Fox News Digital, “Iran is killing its young people and selling [unmanned aerial vehicles] to Russia to kill Ukrainians. Our focus is on practical ways to confront them in these areas.”
The organization United Against a Nuclear Iran (UANI) said amid Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s visit to the White House last week, there is a “need to tackle the arms proliferation pipeline between Russia and Iran.”
UANI stressed that “the increased cooperation between Moscow and Tehran is made possible by the expiration of the international arms embargo against Iran prescribed by the JCPOA. Russia and China blocked U.S. efforts under the Trump administration to extend the arms embargo.”
The future of Iran protests and the nuclear deal
With the waves of massive protests across Iran now entering the fourth month of upheaval, experts see a continuation of the revolutionary energy against Khamenei’s system. It appears that the Iranian people who are protesting for the dissolution of the Islamic Republic have temporarily stopped the nuclear deal in its tracks.
Beni Sabti, an expert on Iran from the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security told Fox News Digital that he believes “The protests will go on until at least the new Iranian New Year, Nowruz, in March because there are many days of celebrations of the revolution. They will use this to confront the regime and embarrass the regime. ”
Sabti, who was advisor for the popular Israeli espionage series “Tehran,” added that Iranian protesters forced the “Biden administration to neglect the JCPOA and put more sanctions on Iran” and its propaganda media outlets.” Sabti noted the Iranian demonstrators are “encouraged” when the U.S sanctions the propaganda of the regime. “If there is no propaganda, the regime cannot exist,” he said.
However, Sabti continued that “Biden still wants to go back to negotiations” with Iran but “Biden can’t ignore the protests and executions.”
Looking ahead to the new year, Iran expert Lisa Daftari concluded that, “More than anything, Iranian protesters, and those who support them around the world, are hoping that in 2023 there will be more awareness, and more importantly, more public support of their movement. If we are able to cut the tentacles of the Iran regime throughout the Middle East and its support of terror, proxies, it’ll be beneficial for the entire region and world.”
Fox News’ Peter Aitken contributed to this article.