Iran sanctions relief will continue funding the ongoing war in Syria

The leaked audiotape of Islamic Republic Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has elicited much fanfare in recent weeks. Among the less scrutinized aspects of the tape has been Zarif’s reference to the Islamic Republic’s ongoing support of the Bashar al-Assad regime, including the fact that Iran Air—the flag carrier of the country—continues to transport arms and fighters into the Syrian conflict. As the Joe Biden administration negotiates a potential return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in Vienna, Tehran’s backing of the Assad regime should not be left off the table.

Proponents of an unqualified return by President Biden to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have frequently argued that doing so is necessary to prevent conflict and even war in the Middle East. As the administration has slow-played any such moves in recent months, analysts who have long warned of an impending war with Iran that has never come are once again sounding the alarm bells and urging Biden to return to the JCPOA immediately to prevent war. Yet in Iran’s “thirty-fifth province,” as those close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei refer to Syria, a return to the deal wouldn’t prevent war, it would escalate and expand one that has now been raging violently for a decade.

The sanctions reimposed on the Islamic Republic after the US withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018 by the Donald Trump administration have, according to a report by the International Monetary Fund, caused Iran’s foreign reserves to dwindle to as low as $4 billion—limiting the regime’s funding for its war machine. But international estimates have indicated that, if the Biden administration were to ease sanctions, Tehran’s foreign reserves would swell to more than $100 billion, rapidly enriching an actor that has shown no hesitation to arm and fund the region’s worst elements. In a recent United Nations Security Council briefing on the Syrian conflict, Secretary of State Antony Blinken remarked that “[W]e have to find a way to do something to take action [in Syria]…That is our responsibility, and shame on us if we don’t meet it.” By cutting off the spigot flooding the Syrian regime’s coffers and military, the secretary of state can meet that responsibility.

Read the complete article at: Atlantic Council

Also Read: Why Iran absorbs Israeli inflicted blows on its militant proxies in Syria

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