Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Biden Politicizes Iran Policy

by Elliott Abrams
May 8, 2012


“When we took office, let me remind you, there was virtually no international pressure on Iran,” Biden said. “We were the problem. We were diplomatically isolated in the world, in the region, in Europe.”

Thus the Vice President of the United States explaining international politics. As I think back to the relationships between President Bush and, to take a few examples, Japanese prime minister Koizumi, Australian prime minister Howard, German chancellor Merkel, British prime minister Blair, King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah II of Jordan, in every case closer than the relationships established with them or their successors by President Obama…well, if we were isolated it was hard to see it.  The “we were the problem” trope is also somewhat undermined by data showing that American popularity in the Arab world is now lower than it was when President Bush left office, a fact that somehow the talkative VP managed to overlook.

Then there are the inconvenient UN Security Council resolutions–inconvenient for the Biden narrative. Resolution 1696 was passed unanimously (except for Qatar) in July 2006, and demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. Resolution 1737 was adopted unanimously in December 2006, banned the supply of nuclear-related materials to Iran, and froze the assets of certain individuals and companies related to Iran’s nuclear program. Resolution 1747 was adopted unanimously in March 2007 and again tightened sanctions on arms sales and supply to Iran and on Iranian banks, and targeted Iran’s missile program as well. Resolution 1803 was adopted in March 2008 with only Indonesia abstaining, and imposed an arms embargo on Iran and froze additional Iranian assets. It asked states to watch Bank Melli and Bank Saderat in particular.

It’s worth mentioning these resolutions now only because they make it clear that the United States had already achieved a substantial international consensus, and P5+1 unity, against Iran before Mr. Biden left the Senate to ascend to his august post. He seems to be ignorant of these facts or he could not say something as foolish as “we were the problem” and “we were diplomatically isolated.” Policy toward Iran ought to be bipartisan and largely has been until now, and fair credit has been given to the Obama administration for working to get new UN resolutions that tighten the sanctions a good deal. Mr. Biden’s effort to rewrite the history is unworthy, if unsurprising. He owes an apology to the many American officials who worked long and hard, and successfully, to construct the international consensus on which more recent officials have built. History did not start on January 20, 2009.

UPDATE: My former NSC colleague Will Tobey has added the following facts:

In January 2009 Iran was enriching uranium with about 4,000 centrifuges; now it has more than 8,000 in operation. Enriched uranium stocks are up five fold in the same period. Two years ago Iran began enrichment to 20 percent. Whatever the VP might think about administration policy, it’s not slowing Iran.

Post a Comment 5 Comments

  • Posted by EthanP

    Considering the “nature” of Bidens recent comments, I suspect
    that Hillary will be the 2012 VP candidate. Expect Joe to step
    down soon.

  • Posted by William Tobey

    Type your comment in here… In January 2009 Iran was enriching uranium with about 4,000 centrifuges; now it has more than 8,000 in operation. Enriched uranium stocks are up 5 fold in the same period. Two years ago Iran began enrichment to 20%. Whatever the VP might think about administration policy, it’s not slowing Iran.

  • Posted by Matt

    43 could get more traction at the UN, because the risk was he could act unilaterally. Hence other world powers wanted to keep some control over the situation and influence, so it was easier to get concessions and compromises through the UN. Obama stated policy is not to act outside the UN unilaterally, so other world powers see no need to compromise at the UN. Whether 43 would act outside the UN or not, it was the unpredictability and perception, that he might. Now if he had no true intention to do it the it was diplomatic genius.

  • Posted by Dean Smallwood

    Joe Biden isn’t smart enough to come up with such elaborate falsehoods . He MUST have copied it from someone else’s speech .

  • Posted by Beverly Weaver

    Biden’s comments will change with the tide. It will not matter if Biden steps down and Hillary Clinton takes his place or not because whoever becomes President in the next election the state has been set to go to war with Iran- just like it was with Iraq post 9 11. Not being an advocate of anyone having nuclear weapons or weapons on mass destruction (NOT even the United States) – which has the largest supply from 1951-present 67,500 warheads and from 1945-present 4,680 Nuclear Bombs and to date the only country using them. Iran has no nuclear weapons or WMD and advocates wants nuclear power for peaceful purposes. The severe sanctions that are put on Iran, Iraq or any other 3rd world country does not hurt the Governments that are not pleasing to Washington Policy Makers but ends up hurting the people ~ the innocent men, women and children that do not have any say in their governments actions……the human beings who’s lives will be lost once when the first bombs fall.

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