While the US appears to be pushing for a speedy signing of a new nuclear deal, Iran is now viewing the Ukraine crisis as an economic opportunity that must be seized quickly. Oil and gas prices have risen to levels not seen in years, and Iran’s immediate entry into the energy market could line Iran’s pockets, where the deficit budget is still based on oil prices before they skyrocketed, and on sales of a million barrels a day.
While the administration trips over itself to divulge classified information about operations in Ukraine, it is also doing its best to hide information about ongoing negotiations with Iran over a return to former President Barack Obama’s 2015 nuclear deal. Fortunately, some brave souls like Gabriel Noronha, a former State Department official, and others are very concerned about the concessions made in Vienna by US negotiator Robert Malley, which amount to a total surrender to Iran.
Mr Noronha has been warned that what Mr Malley has negotiated with the Iranians is a total disaster. Even more chilling and unacceptable is that the Russian diplomat Mikhail Ulanov primarily conducted the entire negotiations. The US and Iranian delegations have yet to meet in person with the Russians, who still serve as facilitators, filtering and changing things to fit their agenda. Shockingly, the news media now covering Russian atrocities in Ukraine have largely failed to cover them.
In short, the deal negotiated in Vienna by Mr. Malley is dangerous to US national security. It does not serve US national security interests in the short or long term. To make matters worse, this is being done by the Russians, who have now inserted conditions into the draft that contradict what the US and NATO allies want to achieve with sanctions against Russia.
Part of the leaked draft would lift sanctions on Iranians Mohsen Rezaei and Ali Akbar Velayati. They were responsible for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish facility in Argentina that killed 85 and injured hundreds more. Another Iranian who would skate under Mr Malley’s “deal” is Iranian General Hossein Dehghan, who led Iran’s guard forces in Lebanon linked to the 1983 Beirut bombings that killed 241 US Marines, while they slept in their barracks.
The sanctions would also be lifted against major Iranian assets unrelated to the nuclear deal, such as the so-called “Cemetery of Mostazafan” – an operation by the Iranian regime responsible for the illegal confiscation of Jewish property after the Iranian revolution of 1979 is.
State Department lawyers, led by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, are now working on “very creative” ways to circumvent the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal Review Act, which gives Congress the power to review any nuclear deal struck with Iran. The last thing the Biden administration wants is for Congress to agree to a new nuclear deal with Iran.
On the money side, the US is now poised to release billions of dollars currently frozen in South Korean banks from Iran next week and elsewhere. According to some estimates, this could amount to about $7 billion, which would support much of the Iran-backed terrorism spreading across the world. Biden’s original promise that any new deal with Iran would include a ban on further Iranian support to terrorism has magically disappeared, while the terrorists have not.
The agreement reached so far is that the talks remain independent of any political or military interests either side may have beyond the nuclear issue. Iran still refuses to discuss the issue of its ballistic missiles or aid to terrorist organizations.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has tried to interfere in the negotiations with Iran, demanding written guarantees that sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine would not affect trade relations and cooperation between Russia, stating that ” Russia wants to secure its interests elsewhere. The Iranian reaction was also linked to Iran’s abstention in the UN General Assembly vote condemning Russia, which was accepted by a large majority of 141 countries. This is also happening against the background of Iran’s previous pro-Russian stance on the Ukraine issue.
The sanctions now imposed on Russia present Iran with an opportunity for new investment channels for companies looking to divest their investments from Russia and look for alternative avenues – a bonanza that depends on a speedy signing of the deal, after which sanctions on Iran would be lifted . Here Iran can maintain its trade ties and arms deals with Russia because sanctions against Russia are not binding on the Iranians as the UN Security Council has not passed them.
There is clearly an element of time here. Russia does not want to be left out of the picture or lose its Iranian influence. If there is a link between its invasion of Ukraine and the nuclear deal, it is in the fact that Russia’s ability to dictate Iran’s moves is waning. At the same time, the opportunities that the West can offer Iran are only gradually coming into focus.
Iran has an estimated reserve of 80 million barrels of oil that it could market immediately. Top Iranian officials believe Iran could sell another 1.2 million barrels a day within days or weeks, which would help lower oil prices around the world and allow Iran to attract new European customers.
Unless stopped, these negotiations will forever jeopardize US national security interests and those of America’s friends and allies in the region and around the world. It sends a pernicious signal that the US is willing to subjugate justice and basic morality just to make a deal with the regime in Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. That’s the only thing that’s leaked so far, and there’s no idea what else will be signed.
• Abraham Wagner has served in several national security positions, including on the NSC staff under Presidents Nixon and Ford. He is the author of the recent book Henry Kissinger: Pragmatic Statesman in Hostile Times.