America, Iran and a Tale of Two Sanctions Waivers

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

America, Iran and a Tale of Two Sanctions Waivers

The United States empowers two radical regimes in the Middle East.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken renewed sanction waivers on both Russia and Iran, the Washington Free Beacon announced on February 6. The waivers, a vestige of then President Barack Obama’s 2016 Iran nuclear deal, allow Russia to assist Iran in its nuclear program.

The Washington Free Beacon wrote:

The waivers … provide billions in profit for Russian-state controlled firms, such as the Rosatom nuclear company, for work at Iran’s Fordow nuclear plant, a contested military site suspected of housing Tehran’s nuclear weapons program. At this site, Iran is enriching uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon, to purity levels that international observers worry put it within reach of a bomb. By permitting cooperation, critics charge that the Biden administration is allowing Tehran to develop its nuclear program while enriching Russia through business with state-controlled organizations.

America is currently one of Ukraine’s biggest supporters in its fight against Russia. Washington’s current two-pronged approach is to send Ukraine billions of dollars’ worth of aid and to shut Russia out of much of the global economy. The waivers directly contradict and compromise this.

Iran, meanwhile, is the world’s premier sponsor of terrorism. On paper, Washington and Tehran are irreconcilable enemies. America is still going after Iran in certain areas, such as its smuggling routes to Houthi rebels in Yemen. Iran’s nuclear program is the most dangerous of its activities for both the U.S. and the wider world. Iran has vowed to “wipe Israel off the map.” A single nuclear weapon would accomplish that. And everybody knows Tehran would strike if given the chance. Yet the nuclear program is the one area the Biden administration is willing to turn a blind eye to.

Even more unusual is that the White House tried to keep the sanction waivers secret. Congress wasn’t even informed until February 3—and this was only after the Washington Free Beacon started making inquiries to the government. It looks like the White House was trying to hide this from the legislature. Evidently, the Biden team knows the sanction waivers look bad and they would be hard to spin to Congress—or the media—in a positive light.

Washington is waiving similar sanctions, with different reasons, on Syria.

Syria was a victim of the catastrophic set of earthquakes that hit two weeks ago. The death toll in Syria, though not nearly as high as in Turkey, is approaching 6,000. But it’s harder for foreign countries to send aid to Syria than to Turkey. Since the Syrian civil war started in 2011, President Bashar Assad has turned Syria into a pariah state. He has dumped chemical weapons on his own people and blasted his cities to rubble. Cooperating with the Assad regime means cooperating with one of the most vilified leaders currently in office.

This hasn’t stopped governments in Europe and the Middle East from pledging support. But the United States held its ground—at first. Idlib Governate—the area of Syria affected by the earthquake—is one of the last strongholds of the Syrian rebels. Washington first said it would give aid to those in need through nongovernmental organizations, side-stepping the Syrian government.

“We have provided more humanitarian assistance to the people of Syria than any other country going forward,” State Department Spokesman Ned Price said on February 6, the day of the earthquake. “But it would be quite ironic, if not even counterproductive, to reach out to a government that has brutalized its people over the course of a dozen years now—gassing them, slaughtering them, being responsible for much of the suffering that they have endured.”

Then, on February 9, the U.S. Department of the Treasury published a press release. The opening paragraph reads:

Today, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (ofac) issued Syria General License (GL) 23, which authorizes for 180 days all transactions related to earthquake relief that would be otherwise prohibited by the Syrian Sanctions Regulations (sysr).

Given the scale of the current humanitarian crisis, one could see this as justified. “While sanctions relief alone cannot reverse long-standing structural challenges and the brutal tactics of the Assad regime,” the release reads, “it can ensure that sanctions do not inhibit the life-saving assistance needed for following this disaster.” The release specifies the waivers are only good for “immediate disaster relief.”

But the U.S. already has mechanisms in place under the existing sanctions structure to send aid to northern Syria. Much of the Syria-Turkey border is controlled by rebel groups. If the U.S. wanted to, it could send aid to northern Syria without going through Assad’s government, which has confiscated humanitarian aid destined for rebel-held areas before.

The Syrian sanctions reliefs are still in their early days. How long they will remain in place and what kind of activity they allow still remains to be seen. But at the very least, it opens the door for cooperation with Assad that was previously prohibited.

Assad is propped up by Iran. He could not have survived this long without Iranian help. Any help the Assad regime receives is help to an Iranian proxy. That means, both sanctions waivers ultimately help Iran.

Iran and Syria are ruled by unsavory regimes with long track records of abusing both their own people and other nations. Any normal democracy would have serious qualms doing business with them. These nations have been at loggerheads with the United States for decades. Yet America is helping empower both regimes. It’s as if America wants the radical, volatile and dangerous Iranian regime saved. It’s as if America wants Iran to get a nuclear bomb. It’s as if America wants Iran to keep control of its proxy empire.

The question remains, why?

We at the Trumpet look to one biblical passage in particular, perhaps more than any other of late, to analyze contemporary American politics. This prophecy is recorded in 2 Kings 14: “For the Lord saw the affliction of Israel, that it was very bitter: for there was not any shut up, nor any left, nor any helper for Israel. And the Lord said not that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven: but he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash” (verses 26-27). “Israel” prophetically refers to the English-speaking peoples—in this case, the United States (request a free copy of The United States and Britain in Prophecy, by Herbert W. Armstrong, for more information). A great, existential crisis is befalling America today.

The U.S. faces record levels of debt and sky-high inflation. Millions of illegal immigrants have poured in through the southern border. Political polarization is growing more and more extreme. America is under “bitter affliction,” and most of it is self-imposed by men at the top.

Propping up anti-American regimes in places like Iran and Syria is part of this affliction. But again, why?

Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry writes in his book America Under Attack:

The Iranians may not know that the Americans are literal descendants of ancient Israel, but they do label America “the great Satan” and the Jewish state “the little Satan.” They want to blot these nations out! And through his Iran nuclear deal, Barack Obama was helping them accomplish this goal. He was implying, You blot out the Jews, and we’ll blot out America. We’ll “blot out the name of Israel from under heaven” by transforming America into a socialist state its founders wouldn’t recognize. He wants to destroy everything good in America because everything good in this nation traces back to God, the God of Israel. Spiritually, he wants to wipe out the faith of Israel—just like the Iranian mullahs want to wipe Israel off the map.

Mr. Flurry was referring to the nuclear deal implemented in 2016. But the same spirit of bitter affliction that was in the Obama administration then is at work in Washington right now. The recent sanction waivers are proof of this.

Yet as 2 Kings 14 brings out, there is cause for hope. The prophecy specifies God will not let this conspiracy run its full course. He will put a stop to it before it is too late. And He will do so for a great purpose.

To learn more, please request a free copy of America Under Attack.