The war in Ukraine and the battle in Vienna

 Clifford D. May

Start with Vladimir Putin who, over the more than two decades he’s ruled Russia, has assassinated dissidents, slaughtered Chechens, detached two provinces from neighboring Georgia, seized Crimea from Ukraine while fueling conflict in the east of that country. He’s also helped the Assad regime kill Syrians – half a million and counting.

On Feb. 24, Mr. Putin again invaded Ukraine. He has been using artillery and dumb bombs to murder men, women, and children, and reduce cities to rubble. His apparent goal is to subjugate Ukraine, strip it of its independence, sovereignty, and freedom.

Move on to Joe Biden who, during his first year in the White House, capitulated on the battlefield in Afghanistan to the Taliban, a terrorist organization joined at the hip to al Qaeda. He left behind more weapons than a Ukrainian general could dream of. He then declared that mission a success.

President Biden now appears eager to capitulate at the negotiating table in Vienna to the Islamic Republic of Iran, a regime that funds and instructs Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Houthi movement in Yemen whose catchy slogan is “Allah is Greater, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam.” He’ll then declare that mission a success.

While Mr. Biden’s stated intention is to isolate Mr. Putin, his diplomats in Vienna continue to work hand-in-glove with Mikhail Ulyanov, Mr. Putin’s envoy.

That’s because the theocratic regime’s negotiators – as a matter of revolutionary Islamic principle – have refused to sit at the same table with Americans. The Biden team has meekly accepted this humiliation.

According to sources, Mr. Ulyanov is not just a go-between but “the dominant player,” proposing compromises to the Americans (who are always flexible) and to the Iranians (who never are).

As for Mr. Ulyanov’s interests, do you suppose they are peace, international security, nuclear non-proliferation, and a “win-win” outcome? Or does he want to please Mr. Putin by helping Iran’s rulers further humble and diminish the United States?

On Saturday, Moscow demanded a written guarantee that any sanctions imposed because of its war on Ukraine will not “in any way damage” its commercial and military relationship with the Islamic Republic. The Biden administration has rejected that demand – for now.

Perhaps you think, as does the U.S. State Department, that “Russia shares a common interest in ensuring Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon.” If so, think again.

Mr. Putin calculates that any nuclear-tipped ICBMs produced by Iran’s rulers will be pointed at America and used to keep America at bay while their proxies conquer and/or destroy more of the Middle East than they already have.

When Mr. Biden’s “indirect” talks with the clerical regime began, he vowed to produce a “longer and stronger” variant of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that President Obama concluded in 2015 and from which President Trump exited in 2018. It’s now clear that a shorter and weaker variant – more economic relief in exchange for fewer verifiable restrictions – has been taking shape.

It’s not only sources who say so. It’s also Mr. Ulyanov. “Realistically speaking Iran got more than frankly I expected, others expected,” he told one reporter. “This is a matter of fact.”

He added: The “Iranian clerics are fighting for Iranian nuclear — national interests like lions. They fight for every comma, every word, and as a rule, quite successfully.”

Mr. Biden’s deal will provide Iran’s rulers with billions of dollars that they can spend on arms and even nuclear-power plants (for peaceful purposes only!) from Russia, and use to fund terrorists, and threaten their American-allied neighbors.

Mr. Biden won’t submit his deal to Congress as a treaty (as he clearly should) so it won’t bind the next administration. But Russian and Iranian negotiators are reportedly looking for a workaround.

For example, they might persuade Mr. Biden to agree that Iran’s enriched uranium be stored in Russia, with the condition that it will be returned to Iran if, at any time, Mr. Putin and Iran’s rulers jointly declare that the Americans are violating the agreement.

Or they might insist on an “inherent guarantee” that Iran’s rulers get to keep their advanced centrifuges on standby with permission to continue enriching at 60% if they decide the U.S. has transgressed.

By contrast, non-compliance and even out-and-out cheating by the theocratic regime will be ignored or forgiven. We know that based on the experience with the JCPOA.

Relatedly, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, said on Saturday that a new deal cannot be concluded unless Tehran first settles outstanding issues relating to nuclear material found at former Iranian nuclear sites that the regime failed to declare.

That will require months. Can a deal be announced before these issues are settled?

Logically no but, in the current era, logic is not a major component in the patterns of behavior driving American foreign policy.

Was it logical to respond to Mr. Putin’s many crimes over the years with a salad of carrots and not enough sticks to make a bonfire?

Was it logical to invite him to partner with the U.S. in negotiations with Iran’s rulers while excluding the American allies most threatened by Iran’s rulers?

Is it logical to give the theocrats in Tehran the means to do in the Middle East what Mr. Putin is doing in eastern Europe?

The Biden administration – building on the record of too many of its predecessors – has been establishing a shameful and damaging pattern of behavior: It is proving to be harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend.

Clifford D. May is founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a columnist for the Washington Times. Follow him on Twitter @CliffordDMay. FDD is a nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

Courtesy: (FDD)