I didn’t vote for Joe Biden. I didn’t vote for him despite the fact that Donald Trump was the worst president this country ever had. Despite the fact that it was imperative to remove him from office. I didn’t vote for him because I knew I would oppose his Middle East policy. I didn’t want to have to explain to my conscience why I voted for a man whose approach to these issues I would despise almost every single day.
Without doubt, Biden’s approach to the region is better than Trump’s. The latter was an imminent danger to world order. A disaster waiting to happen. Joe Biden is not that. But he is a fierce disappointment. And I knew he would be.
During the campaign, Biden talked as if one of his first priorities would be a return to the JCPOA nuclear deal. He never said a word about imposing prior conditions on a US return. But now, all of a sudden, the US won’t return to the deal negotiated under an administration in which he served as vice-president, unless Iran agrees to his demands. Iran, per Biden and Secretary of State Blinken, must stop enriching uranium above the 4.5% levels prescribed in the agreement. It must surrender any material enriched over that level.
Someone has to remind me: who abandoned the deal first? Was it Iran or the US? Of course, it was Donald Trump. Now, under Joe Biden we maintain the same policy. We are the ones out of compliance. We are the ones who not only dumped the deal, but imposed even more spiteful and punitive sanctions on Iran as we slammed the door on the way out. We are the ones daring other countries to break ranks so that we can punish their financial and commercial companies. Right now, Trump’s policies are Biden’s. He can talk all he wants about how different things will be. But they aren’t now and that’s all that matters.
Iran says it will return to the deal when we are prepared to lift sanctions, which should have been lifted had the deal not been abrogated. This is an entirely reasonable demand. If JCPOA is to be a real agreement then all its terms must be honored. And the party which walked away first must show good faith by making the first move to return to it. Iran did not walk away. Iran stayed within the enrichment limits long after the US left. It was only after it saw that the US essentially nullified any efforts by European signatories of the deal to lift sanctions in defiance of us. At that point, Iran realized that the US held all the cards and the Europeans were all bluff. That’s when it became clear that the only way it could signify its protest was by plowing forward with its own enrichment.
The point was to show the world that by the end of Trump’s presidency Iran had far more centrifuges and far more enriched uranium than it had when the agreement was first launched. In other words, had Trump not made a shambles of JCPOA, Iran would be much farther away from nuclear capability than it is currently.
Joe Biden needs to get back into compliance. He needs to call for a renewal of JCPOA. He needs to summon the six parties back to the negotiating table and find a way back. It is incumbent on him to do this. The Iranians have already said they are ready. They have already indicated a willingness to deal with the enrichment issue as long as we have shown our own good faith. We are the ones holding things up.
I suppose Biden’s supporters might say: “be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Joe needs time. Republicans are nipping at his heels. And there’s shit like this he has to worry about. He’ll get there. Trust him. He will.” I’d like to believe them. But we can’t ignore the failures of Barack Obama who also began with strong promises and ended with empty rhetoric.
I wasn’t reassured to read of Biden’s Super Bowl interview in which he told the interviewer that the US would not lift sanctions till Iran stopped enriching uranium:
NORAH O’DONNELL (CBS): Will the U.S. lift sanctions first in order to get Iran back to the negotiating table?
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: No.
O’DONNELL: They have to stop enriching uranium first?
At that point Biden nodded…
This could have been a gaffe on Biden’s part. After all, the guy is 78. He may not have realized the question required a nuanced answer and he offered just the opposite. Alternatively, Biden could be signaling an even more draconian US position on JCPOA which would put us much farther away from returning to it.
Justin Logan writes:
The broader worry here is that the Biden team seem to be taking their sweet time working out their Iran policy, and they may not have as much time as they think…
First, letting this run-up to, or through, the Iranian election may not have good results. A lot of thinking has Rouhani being replaced by a more hardline president no matter what happens with the nuclear deal. But letting nationalists make hay over the suffering from American sanctions…seems unlikely to help anything…People in Iran could be forgiven for believing that the United States is inherently hostile and cannot be trusted. You don’t want to see that result in an Iranian election…
Blinken Refuses to Recognize East Jerusalem as Capital of Palestinian State
But Iran is not the only issue provoking my ire tonight. We already knew that Biden would refuse to return the US embassy to Tel Aviv, which essentially meant that the US recognized Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem. That, in turn, meant that there could be no two-state solution, since that option provided that the Palestinians have sovereignty over portions of the city that would comprise their own national capital.
When Wolf Blitzer asked Blinken point-blank whether he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he fired back immediately: “I do.” But when he asked whether the U.S. recognizes East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state he hemmed and hawed. That refusal to grant the Palestinians what we’ve freely granted the Israelis speaks volumes about our bad faith.
Yes, it’s true that Biden did make a big deal about undoing policies which were essentially cosmetic: US aid to the corrupt Palestinian Authority would be restored; a Palestinian mission would be reopened in Washington (though Congress during Trump’s term, essentially legislated away this possibility). The US would return to its ineffectual policy of opposition to settlements.
The Israel Lobby (including Blitzer who raised this question to Blinken) is raising a geschrei that Biden hasn’t called Bibi yet. I suppose this is meant to show that Biden has a bit of spine and won’t be the patsy that his predecessors were. It’s our way of saying: Bibi, you’ve gone from being hot borscht to being cold herring. But really, we all know that Biden has little leverage. He will take the benign neglect approach to Israel, which is just fine by Bibi. When the cat is away then Bibi will play.
Blinken Recognizes Israeli Control of Golan
Secy. of State Antony Blinken on whether the US will continue to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights: “Leaving aside the legalities of that question, as a practical matter, the Golan is very important to Israel’s security as long as Assad is in power in Syria” pic.twitter.com/yHQBr7FvgP
— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) February 9, 2021
Curiously, we never heard a peep about the Golan. Would the US return to its decades-long policy of refusing to recognize Israeli conquest and annexation of the Golan? Tonight, we have the answer. Tony Blinken, in a statement that makes one shudder, said this:
As a practical matter, the Golan is very important to Israel’s security as long as Assad is in power, as long as Iran is present in Syria, militia groups backed by Iran, the Assad regime itself, all of these pose significant security threats to Israel. As a practical matter, the control of the Golan in that situation remains of real importance to Israel’s security. Legal questions are something else and over time, if the situation were to change in Syria that’s something we would look at. But we are nowhere near that,
The US position is that Israel, contrary to international law, controls the Golan and that we support Israeli control. We offer a vague prospect that at some unspecified time in the future if Syria, Iran and Hezbollah accede to our demands that they withdraw from Syria, then we would entertain the issue of Syrian sovereignty over the Golan. Of course, there is no mention of Israeli invasions of Lebanese and Syrian sovereignty via hundreds of air attacks over nearly a decade. No demand that Israel do precisely what we are demanding of the Iranians: withdraw and stop interfering with the affairs of these states.
This is utter, shamefaced hypocrisy. It is the same bankrupt policy offered by Obama. And it is not much different than the even more egregious approach of Trump. In fact, while Trump officially recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan, Blinken has just revealed that the US tacitly does as well.
And you wonder why I refused to vote for him?
Why Matt Duss Doesn’t Matter Much
One final word on a related matter: Peter Beinart today wrote a post (“Why Matt Duss Matters”) rallying to the defense of Bernie Sanders foreign policy advisor, Matt Duss. Duss is leaving Sanders’ employ for a new job at the State Department. There he will join another newly appointed official who’s stirred the ire of the far-right reaches of the Israel Lobby, Rob Malley. Duss has been attacked by what MJ Rosenberg delightfully used to call Washington Free Bacon, as a “Jew-hater.” Apparently, when you work for a Jewish senator you somehow become an anti-Semite. Especially when that senator has the chutzpah to advance “provocative” ideas like–criminalizing BDS is a violation of the First Amendment; and US aid to Israel should be conditioned on its adherence to international law regarding the settlements.
These attacks by DC pro-Israel hacks are disgusting. They likely will have no impact on Duss’ viability as a candidate for this new position.
But I want to raise a major caveat to Duss’ appointment, which has nothing to do with those of the Free Beacon. Bernie Sanders is no radical when it comes to Israel-Palestine. He’s a liberal Zionist who supports the DOA two-state solution. He opposes BDS. He opposes ending US military aid to Israel. Matt Duss espouses the exact same views.
So in what way will Matt Duss advance a progressive agenda on these matters? He won’t. When he enters the halls of the State Department he will become a soft-left version of Dennis Ross and Aaron David Miller. But unlike them, he won’t have much leeway to advance serious proposals which could move US policy leftward. He will be swallowed in the jaws of the bureaucracy. Biden, in fact, will not give Israel-Palestine a high priority since Bibi Netanyahu has so deftly outmaneuvered Barack Obama and John Kerry in their own efforts to broker a peace deal. The Biden team knows that there is no way around Bibi, and that there is no way around Israeli intransigence no matter who is PM. So prospects for peace are dead for the foreseeable future.
It’s curious that Beinart links to several American Jewish writers and activists who’ve praised Duss (who is Christian), as if that is supposed to provide credibility. Let me go on record as dissenting from this view.
In the interest of full disclosure, my downbeat assessment of Matt Duss is colored by my personal history with him. A decade ago or more he was working for the Center for American Progress and its publication, Think Progress. He and a group of other journalist-activists were publishing hard hitting criticism of Israeli policy which I admired.
When he planned a trip to Seattle, Duss called me and asked to have coffee. We did, and had an enjoyable conversation about politics and our mutual history growing up in Rockland County NY (he in Nyack and I in New City). Our contacts continued and were on a warm footing until he left CAP and moved over the the Foundation for Middle East Peace. One day, I woke up to a slashing tweet from him attacking me. It struck like a bolt of lightning. I had no warning. I didn’t know why it happened. I didn’t know what the disagreement involved. But one thing I knew for sure: Matt Duss was neither my friend nor my ally.
I responded and the next thing I knew he blocked me. I remained blocked until he began working for Bernie Sanders. It’s generally frowned upon for public officials to block individuals merely because they disagree with them. So Duss was obliged to unblock me. Periodically, I’ve tweeted questions to him and challenged him regarding the inadequacies of Sanders’ statements on Israel-Palestine. He’s never responded.
So while Peter Beinart may regard Duss as a friend and someone worth defending, I don’t. Defend him from spurious attacks, yes. But defend him on the merits of his ideas and views? No. Believe that he’s going to miraculously advance a progressive agenda on Israel-Palestine? No.
sadly, i agree with you. however, part of that is me talking without truly knowing what i’m talking about. i don’t know the history and geopolitical details you do, richard, but our hearts are in the same place. i loathe what the israeli politik has become. but then i loathe the amerikan one, too.
It was VP Biden who ran foreign policy under Obama … appointments and directed regime change in Libya, Egypt, Syria and with Cheney advisor Victoria Nuland the coup in Ukraine. Under Obama the Russian Federation was ousted as partner in NATO meetings. Biden has befriended rightwing Republicans like Lindsey Graham on Middle East policy. Indeed, the US has never been and will never be an honest broker for a Palestinian state. The US and Israel are above International law and justice. It appears Biden is more at ease to make peace with Bibi. Obama worked against Netanyahu in an Israeli election cycle, the Democrats got payback from Israel and Arab allies in the surprise victory of Republicans in 2016.
Russia still plays a role in crucial states allied with the Islamic Republic of Iran. The US and Israel can’t undo hostilities of the past … murderous assault on anti-IS ally Qasem Soleimani and recently nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Iran is hurting due to inhumane economic sanctions especially during the pandemic. Iran takes pride in its sovereignty as guaranteed by the charter of the UN.
Murder of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, an Iranian nuclear scientist an hero of a nation
Bobby Sandstone says
Exit bad globocop stage right…enter good globocop stage left.
Act 2 commences with the bedding in of Trump’s Act 1 scene-setting; with the players piggery better lipsticked as tension is assuaged and audience attention is deflected with liberal gestures in the wings lauded by tame media reviewers.
Act 3 will likely see a Pompeo hit the stage to bring down the house.
Warning…Act 3 may erupt from the wings, stage Right, precipitately.
Richard Silverstein says
@Sandstone: Pompeo “bring down the house?” Only in the sense that Samson “brought down the house” (I.E. The Philistine temple) in Ashkelon lo these many years ago.
It’s “precipitously,” not “precipitately.” The latter would mean it’s precipitating I.e. Raining.
“I didn’t vote for him [Biden] because I knew I would oppose his Middle East policy”
Wow. To defend Palestinian rights, you put your country at risk of four more years of Trumpism.
“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out…”
A choice each one of us makes to oppose fascist rule and behaviour.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Forrest: Since when did I put the Republic in danger? Trump lost by 7-million votes. And yes, unlike you, I do have a set of moral values that involve justice for Palestinians and fair resolution of one of the most dangerous conflicts facing the world today.
Staying home on election night, or writing in ‘Donald Duck for President’, is not a ‘choice to oppose fascist rule and behavior’. Voting for Biden was the only alternative to opposing Trump’s treasonous reign, and Richard failed to do that.
Richard would be the first person to condemn ‘Israel first’, American Jews and Christians who voted for Trump, yet on the most important election of his lifetime, Richard only had Israel and Palestine on his mind.
Richard. My estimation of you has dropped like a lead weight.
And BTW, how did you know that Biden would win the election on November 2?
Answer: You didn’t.
Richard Silverstein says
@Forrest: Just think of it: an apologist for apartheid Israel telling us how to oppose fascism! Excuse me, but we don’t need lessons from you.
Nor do you know what I had on my mind. Nor do I permit you to speak on my behalf about what I may be thinking. Of course, I didn’t “only” have Israel and Palestine on my mind. But I am proud that I did have them on my mind.
Further, you are an utter hypocrite because you truly DO only have Israel on your mind. The only reason you’re making such lame claims about what I allegedly had on my mind is because it serves as a feeble gotcha to counter my views. We all know you don’t give a crap about America or our politics except as it relates to Israel.
As for your estimation of me: I could give 2 shits. Your estimation of me has always been about as low as mine of you. So let’s not pretend shall we.
Anyone in America except Trump’s true Believers knew he would lose. Further, something you apparently don’t understand is that American elections aren’t decided by individual votes. They’re decided by state votes. So if your state votes for Biden, it’s electoral college votes go to Biden. My state is as blue as any state in the union. There was never any doubt WA would give its EC votes to Biden.
You are done in this thread.
One ought to step back and ask, ‘Just why does Iran have a nuclear program anyway?’ Medical research? Nuclear power? Industrial applications?
Please. Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.
1957: Shah and President Dwight Eisenhower sign a civil nuclear cooperation agreement under the U.S. Atoms for Peace program.
1968: Iran signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and is ratified soon after by parliament.
Where was and is Israel on the NPT Treaty? An imminent threat to the region.
The Islamic Republic of Iran produces medical isotopes in its civilian nuclear program.
Medical isotopes she could easily buy on the open market, like most countries do.
I asked you not to piss on my leg, and you did.
I’m done with you.
Medical isotopes she could easily buy on the open market …
US sanctions do not value Iranian lives for cancer treatment or battle a pandemic. Iranian leaders do …
Medical isotope supplies dwindle | Nature – Feb. 2010 |
Iranians need to be self-sufficient.
Persia, one if the greatest empires of the ancient world.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Sepp: Iran wouldn’t need a nuclear program is the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia Arabia and the entire Sunni world weren’t chafing to attack it. Every country in the world is entitled to defend itself by whatever means are necessary. That includes Iran.
Why does Israel have nuclear weapons? For the same reason. Denying Iran what Israel already has, and what it has threatened to use against Iran is hypocritical in the extreme.
Biden also wants Julian Assange in an American court still, even though he’s a foreign national and this would be awful for journalism across the planet. You got rid of America’s Senile Racist Uncle, you picked up America’s Grandfather who does all the stuff SRU does, but in a less-racist, idiotic way, even though the final goal is moronic.
Voting me down doesn’t help a thing, hasbarists/DNC tools.