While the Iranian regime has been killing Americans during the coronavirus crisis and planning to kill more, President Trump's plan to block the mullahs' request for $5 billion in aid, as well as his Iran policy of maximum pressure, are definitely steps in the right direction. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
While the Iranian regime has been killing Americans during the coronavirus crisis and planning to kill more, a group of American politicians are urging US President Donald J. Trump to loosen sanctions on Tehran regime and refrain from blocking the mullahs' request for $5 billion in aid.
The former vice president and the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, for instance, recently called on the Trump administration to loosen sanctions on Iran.
He pointed out that it is "bad enough that the Trump administration abandoned the Iran nuclear deal in favor of a strategy of 'maximum pressure;" he added that "it makes no sense, in a global health crisis, to compound that failure with cruelty by inhibiting access to needed humanitarian assistance. Whatever our profound differences with the Iranian government, we should support the Iranian people."
Biden, however, seems to have forgotten that, during his vice presidency, the US administration and the Iranian regime sold the world the idea that the lifting of UN sanctions, the nuclear agreement, and adopting appeasement policies towards the mullahs would help the Iranian people and make the Iranian government a constructive player. At the end of Biden's vice presidency, evidence showed that, in fact, the opposite had taken place. People in oil-rich Iran were suffering financially. Unemployment among youths -- approximately 60% of the Iranian population was under 30 years of age -- reached a record-high of roughly 31%. Many of the youths were highly educated and tech-savvy but could not find a job. Since then, inflation and poverty have remained high.
As Iran's hardliners became more empowered, human rights violations escalated as well as suppression of freedoms, according to Amnesty International. The extra billions of dollars in revenue -- thanks to the loosening of sanctions and a nuclear agreement that would have enabled Iran to obtain nuclear weapons capability -- did not go into the pockets of the Iranian people, but instead into the pockets of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its allies and proxies, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria's President Assad, the Houthis in Yemen, and other terrorist groups.
In addition, do you remember 2009, when the people of Iran rose up in the millions against their Islamist dictatorship when Biden was vice president? He and then President Barack Obama at the time stayed abysmally silent. People on the streets were chanting to the Obama administration, "Are you with them [mullahs] or with us?"
The former president and vice president did not offer support, perhaps out of concern that it might jeopardize their hoped-for "nuclear deal" -- which, incidentally Iran never signed. It was likely the Obama administration's dismissal of the Iranian people's pleas for help that not only enabled the mullahs brutally to crush the demonstrations with impunity; the mullahs were actually rewarded with a deal of billions of dollars that would simply embolden their malign actions throughout Venezuela and other parts of South America as well as the Middle East.
A week after Biden's call to loosen sanctions on the Iranian regime, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) also wrote in a letter to President Donald J. Trump, stating:
"I am disappointed to see reports that your administration intends to block Iran from receiving $5 billion in humanitarian aid from the IMF to combat the coronavirus pandemic... Providing these funds to Iran would help it respond more effectively to the disease and mitigate the risk of further destabilization in the region.... It is in our national interest, and in the interest of international security, to help Iran contain this disease."
How on earth is it in the US "national interest" to allow a regime that is kidnapping and killing Americans and their allies, and planning to attack US diplomatic facilities, to receive billions of dollars in aid? How on earth is it in America's national interest to help the mullahs whose regime and proxies have, for four decades, committed terrorist attacks against Washington and its allies -- including the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marines barracks in Beirut, in which 241 Marines were killed; the 1983 U.S. Embassy bombing in Beirut; the 1984 United States Embassy annex bombing in Beirut; the 9/11 attacks in the United States, for which the New York District Court ordered Iran to pay $7.5 billion to the victims' families; the 1992 terror attack on Israel's Embassy in Buenos Aires during which 29 people were killed, and the bombing of the USS Cole?
An additional problem, based on a pattern for which Iran has only itself to blame, is that there is no evidence that Iran has the slightest intention of using these funds to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic or to help Iran's people. The Trump administration already offered to send medical help to Iran; Iran has continued to turn it down. "Possibly," Iran's Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei said, "your medicine is a way to spread the virus more."
Moreover, there have also been suggestions that a secret Iranian fund of reportedly $200 billion, controlled by Khamenei, could perfectly well help Iran to fund its crisis.
The US president's plan to block the mullahs' request for $5 billion in aid, as well as his Iran policy of maximum pressure, are definitely steps in the right direction.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US foreign policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu