The media will call it “sabotage,” but what Donald Trump is doing to Joe Biden has more to do with national security than transition politics. Trump is tying Biden’s hands on Iran, limiting his options so that the policies that Trump has set in motion will continue for a while.
The recent assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh has sent a strong message to the mullahs that just because there’s going to be a new leader in Washington, that doesn’t mean the pressure will be eased. While Trump probably didn’t order the targeted killing, he almost certainly signed off on it. And Israel doesn’t care who’s president as much as they hope to work with the United States to put a lid on Iranian ambitions in the region.
Biden may now be forced to play with those cards. It’s doubtful Iran will deal him a new set.
And here’s the rub. Some say that Israel may have struck now as it had a final window under Trump. Biden, it is thought, might not be so accommodating to this sort of stuff. I’m not so sure. Israel would almost certainly seek a US greenlight to kill a major politician or general. That’s not so for almost anonymous nuclear scientists. Rather, it seems to me that someone somewhere has relayed a simple message: administrations may change, security concerns do not.
Iran, meanwhile, is ginning up even more hysteria than usual against the U.S. and Israel. They were not pleased that the most important nuclear scientist they had — the “father of the Iranian bomb” — should be killed at this juncture. It will make any rapprochement with Iran by Biden far more difficult, thanks to Donald Trump.
Liberals who are hoping for an appointment to a post in the Biden administration have been openly speculating about Biden reentering the nuclear deal with Iran. That barn door should have been closed years ago. Just recently, the IAEA said that Iran had more enriched uranium today than they had before the nuclear deal — 12 times more. Iran will never give that up, nor will they stop any enrichment activities.
But will Trump really tie Biden’s hands by starting a war?
There was an unprecedented meeting in Saudi Arabia last weekend between Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. News of the meeting leaked out, but no one is sure what the three men — all sworn foes of Iran — talked about.
What the three men discussed remains a closely guarded secret, a fact that has only served to encourage conspiracy claims. In the absence of an official statement, it’s suggested they may have agreed to intensify efforts to provoke and weaken the Tehran regime. Any ensuing retaliation by Iran might then potentially be used to justify an attack on its nuclear facilities before Trump leaves office on 20 January.
The meeting in Neom, a city near the Red Sea, and the possibly deliberate leak revealing it had taken place, served another important purpose. By presenting a united anti-Iran front, the participants put US president-elect Joe Biden on notice that his plans to resume dialogue with Tehran, and revive the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by Trump, will face fierce resistance and may have to be rethought.
The assassination of Fakhrizadeh was probably not on the agenda but was no doubt a topic of conversation. As for any retaliation by Iran, their options are extremely limited. Attacking U.S. troops in the region didn’t work after Soleimani was assassinated and it won’t work now.
And the U.S. already has plenty of justification to take out Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. They don’t need a flimsy excuse of “Iranian retaliation” for that.
I don’t think Trump goes to war with Iran before he leaves office. That window closed a long time ago. More likely, Trump’s actions will further limit Biden’s options and keep him from giving away the store when he takes office.