Iran’s Aggression Tests Biden’s Approach, Exposes Policy Naivete

Iran’s recent barrage of drones and missiles aimed at Israel serves as a stark lesson for President Joe Biden, highlighting the limitations of a policy built on the hope of inducing better behavior from Tehran through multibillion-dollar incentives. This strategy, inherited from former President Barack Obama, rested on the mistaken assumption that Iran was genuinely interested in constructive engagement.

Ben Rhodes, a former deputy national security adviser under Obama, openly acknowledged in 2016 that the administration had portrayed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to the public in a more favorable light than was warranted. Rhodes famously remarked that the media were easily deceived, earning him the derogatory nickname “Hamas” within Obama’s White House due to his perceived anti-Israel stance.

Unlike Obama, Biden has not reinstated Rhodes in his administration, but questions persist about the White House’s priorities amid escalating tensions in the Middle East. Why does the administration appear more inclined to restrain Israel, its ally, than to confront Iran, a longstanding adversary that has consistently labeled America as “the Great Satan” since 1979? This raises concerns of either profound naivete or deeper strategic motives.

The enigmatic case of Rob Malley adds another layer to this complex narrative. Malley, a key figure in Obama-Biden foreign policy circles, holds far-left views on Middle East affairs that have become mainstream within the Democratic Party over the years. He played a pivotal role in crafting the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) during Obama’s tenure.

Following President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA in 2018, Biden brought Malley back to the White House in 2021 with the intention of resurrecting the agreement. However, with Iran and Israel now engaged in a de facto conflict, Malley’s efforts to revive the JCPOA have stalled. Moreover, Malley’s abrupt departure from the White House in April 2023, amid a suspension of his security clearances by the State Department, remains shrouded in mystery.

Details surrounding Malley’s security issues have been scant, but they have triggered broader concerns about potential espionage. Iranian state media exacerbated speculation by publishing an alleged State Department memo suggesting that Malley mishandled classified information, leading to the suspension of his Top Secret clearance. Despite congressional inquiries, the Biden administration has remained tight-lipped on the matter.

Recent revelations about the “Iran Experts Initiative,” an influence operation dating back to 2014, further highlight troubling ties between certain individuals close to Malley and Tehran. Operatives associated with this initiative, including Dina Esfandiary, Ali Vaez, and Ariane Tabatabai, have maintained access to the Biden White House despite lingering questions about their allegiances.

Tabatabai, in particular, continues to hold high-level positions in the Pentagon, raising eyebrows given her close association with Tehran. A 2023 security review surprisingly upheld her security clearances, despite concerns about her communications resembling those of a spy with her Iranian contacts.

The Biden administration’s handling of these revelations has raised eyebrows, with accusations that it has downplayed a potential espionage scandal. Efforts by Congress to shed light on Malley’s situation have yielded little progress, leaving lingering doubts about the administration’s transparency.

As the FBI and State Department continue their respective investigations into Malley and his associates, questions persist about the broader implications of these developments, especially in light of escalating tensions with Iran.