Biden Let U.N. Sanctions on Iran Missiles Expire Before Unprecedented Israel Attack

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    Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images

    The administration of leftist President Joe Biden did not move to renew expiring sanctions in Iran’s drone and ballistic missile production at the United Nations in October, shortly after the Iran-backed massacre of an estimated 1,200 people in Israel and Saturday’s unprecedented direct missile assault by Iran on the country.

    The Iranian military spent much of the past week threatening retaliation against Israel in response to a military operation targeting senior leaders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an arm of the Iranian military and U.S.-designated terrorist organization. The operation resulted in the elimination of seven Iranian terrorists, most prominent among them Quds Force commander Mohammad Reza Zahedi.

    Tehran finally acted on Saturday, launching over 300 drones and missiles towards Israeli territory. The barrage orchestrated directly by the Iranian military – and not one of its many proxy forces, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Yemeni Houthi terrorist organization – was “unprecedented,” Biden said in response. It did not, however, result in major damage.

    The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed over “300 threats of various types” swarmed Israel from Iran. An estimated 99 percent of them were intercepted, including all the drones and cruise missiles. Israel has documented one casualty, an Israeli Arab girl hit by shrapnel from one of the missiles. Despite this, the IRGC declared victory, describing the failed assault as a “success.” As it typically does after terrorist attacks, the Iranian government allowed loyalists to orchestrate street celebrations on Saturday night over the attack in Tehran.

    Critics of the Biden administration noted in the aftermath of the attack that Iran has had nearly five months to legally expand its development of drone and ballistic missile technology after “transition day,” October 18, 2023. As part of former President Barack Obama’s catastrophic 2015 “Iran nuclear deal,” known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the United Nations Security Council imposed limits on Iran’s ballistic missile and drone programs. The signatories to the agreement chose October 18 as an automatic expiration deadline, presumably expecting Iran to abide by the deal and earn the termination.

    Iran has consistently violated the agreement since its 2015 signing, most recently expelling International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors in November. The IAEA has repeatedly warned that Iran is enriching uranium at levels that are not consistent with peaceful nuclear development.

    October 18 also arrived shortly after the invasion and massacre of Israelis by Hamas, a jihadist organization that has long received financial support from Iran. A Hamas spokesman told the BBC on the record on October 7 that Hamas had “direct backing” from Iran for the attack. Iran’s “supreme leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, openly celebrated the genocidal attack on Twitter, calling the state of Israel a “cancer.”

    The Security Council sanctions could have been extended through protocol in the United Nations to formally accuse Iran of violating the provisions of the nuclear deal. The Biden administration made no move to “snap back” the sanctions, however, instead announcing a new series of sanctions limited to some Iranian individuals and organizations, backed by dozens of states that co-signed a joint statement with the State Department in October.

    “On October 18, 2023, the restrictions set forth in UN Security Council … was based on the assumption that Iran would take the necessary steps towards restoring confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of its nuclear program,” the statement read. “This has not happened. In this context, it is imperative that all States continue to take steps to counter Iran’s destabilizing ballistic missile-related activities through ongoing counterproliferation cooperation.”

    Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement published on October 18 that Iran’s “development, procurement, and proliferation of missiles and missile-related technology remains one of the greatest challenges to international peace and security,” vowing to “utilize every tool at our disposal to counter Iran’s development, procurement, and proliferation of missiles, UAVs, and other dangerous weapons.”

    The restoration of U.N. sanctions was not addressed in the statement, which focused on Iran’s reportedly providing of drones to Russia for use on the Ukrainian battlefield and its arming of terror proxies, rather than concerns that Iran could use its weapons itself. Similarly, experts concerned about the expiration of the sanctions warned that Iran would now be free to arm “Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and the Houthis,” rather than focusing on Iran’s own ability to conduct attacks.

    The Iranian government celebrated “Transition Day” and declared that the sanctions on its missiles and drones had “unconditionally” ended.

    The government of Israel responded to the attack on Saturday asserting that it would continue defending itself from its terrorist neighbor.

    “We will build a regional coalition and exact the price from Iran in the fashion and timing that is right for us,” war cabinet minister Benny Gantz said on Sunday.

    Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

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