Why would our allies allow an enemy like Iran to rearm?
The United Nations Security Council surpassed itself last week when it rejected Washington’s effort to extend a 2007 arms embargo on the Islamic Republic of Iran, granting approval to the world’s largest state sponsor of terror to import and export conventional weapons again. The U.S. expected China and Russia to veto the measure, as Beijing and Moscow will be the likeliest new suppliers of aircraft and tanks to the mullahs in Tehran. But what made less sense to U.S. policymakers — and what makes Americans less safe — are the countries that abstained from voting at all, notably Britain, Germany and France.
This was a particularly troubling decision by Germany, which recently took the bold step of circumventing EU policy by designating the entirety of Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Germany also regularly reaffirms its special commitment to the security of Israel, the country most threatened by Iranian arms. Germany’s decision not to prevent Iran from importing Chinese and Russian weapons systems is so consequential for Hezbollah’s resourcing capacities that it effectively neutralizes the positive step Berlin had taken by revising its Hezbollah policy.
The reason for German, British and French abstention — and the reason for an expiration date on the original embargo from 13 years ago — is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 Obama-Biden nuclear deal with Iran. That agreement was endorsed by U.N. Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231, which mandated an end to the Iranian embargo on Oct. 18, 2020. The Europeans want to save the JCPOA, and the Russians and Chinese want to end the embargo. The incentives for this deal were aligned against American interests from its inception.
As many predicted at the time, there would be grave consequences for the Obama-Biden insistence that U.S. foreign policy must be negotiated by consensus with Europe. Traumatized by the rise of anti-American sentiment in Europe during the George W. Bush administration, President Obama and Vice President Biden made sure that U.S. Middle East policy would be first approved by the major European powers, giving Berlin, Paris and London a veto over American policy. And, of course, that veto power is wildly popular in Europe. But that conviction subordinated U.S. interests in the Middle East — such as regional stability, balance of power, violence reduction and Israeli security — to the interests of Europe, which have always been more commercial.
The Biden campaign is promising a return to this era of foreign policymaking by European consensus. But to subject U.S. national interests to a veto by European states is to submerge American sovereignty. Perhaps a case could be made for that if U.S. security, defense and prosperity would stand to benefit, on net. But all this is done for the sake of rewarding the violent behavior of a revolutionary terror regime that proudly and publicly threatens American interests. If Joe Biden wins in November, the politics of the U.N. Security Council would become the politics of the White House.
In the meantime, as President Trump directed yesterday, the U.S. will push to use UNSCR 2231’s “snapback mechanism” to restore sanctions on Tehran, in the event that the Iranian regime violates the nuclear deal. Even as Iran has blocked International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) access to its nuclear sites, enabled Bashar al-Assad’s genocide in Syria, and spread terror across the Middle East, critics argue the snapback is no longer valid. Either they believe Iran has never violated the deal, or the U.S. is to blame for its violations, or the U.S. does not have rights to the snapback mechanism because it is no longer a party to the nuclear agreement.
But as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) recently pointed out, all these criticisms are irrelevant. Iran has admitted to violating the deal. The U.S. maintains “full discretion to determine what is and is not” a violation under the terms of the deal. And the snapback mechanism as agreed to in 2015 is available to any of the original parties to the agreement.
Unfortunately, that’s where the wisdom of the Obama-Biden deal stopped. Everything else about the JCPOA has put American interests and security in jeopardy. Take, for example, the current dilemma. The revisionist terror regime that hangs gay people in public squares and boasts about its genocidal plans for the Jewish State is now closer to welcoming business from Chinese and Russian weapons dealers, while America’s European allies simply shrug.
Richard Grenell is a senior fellow of Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Politics and Strategy. He is a senior adviser on LGBT outreach to the Republican National Committee. He served more than 10 years in the U.S. Department of State, including as U.S. ambassador to Germany, 2018-2020, and as a spokesman at the United Nations, and served briefly as acting director of national intelligence (DNI).