Consequences of Iranian Sanctions Removal


Iran is en route to ramping up its oil production and exportation to pre-sanction levels. Back in 2018, the United States, under the Trump administration, left the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCOA). The exiting of the JPCOA was precipitated by a lack of transparency regarding Iran’s nuclear program and other violations of the agreement. Additionally, the JPCOA was a flawed deal that all but ensured Iran would be able to obtain nuclear weapons on an extended timeline. In effect, the JPCOA offered Iran economic concessions in exchange for a temporary delay in nuclear weapons development.

Under the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, Iran’s oil exportation dropped from 2.6 million barrels of oil each day to 385,000 barrels of oil per day. According to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, these sanctions put significant pressure on Tehran, hampering the regime’s primary economic resource. This pressure was serving as a means to persuade Tehran against pursuing nuclear weapons, imperialist expansion in the Middle East, funding terrorist attacks, and continuing its long history of human rights abuses.

However, presently under the Biden administration, the United States has begun lifting these sanctions in an effort to reenter a deal similar to the JPCOA. In practice, the negotiations surrounding the new deal with Iran have shaped an agreement much less favorable to the United States and significantly more beneficial to Iran and Russia. Presently, Iran has announced that its oil production and exportation are on the rise. The Islamic Republic announced that it is now producing 3.8 million barrels of oil per day, claiming it could reach full production within a couple of months. Even if this is an exaggeration by Tehran, it indicates the regime is on the economic rebound as a consequence of relaxed sanctions under the Biden administration. Moreover, under Biden’s new Iran deal, the clerical regime will gain access to nearly $131 billion in foreign assets.

The revenue that Iran stands to generate from increased oil sales is greatly increased due to the high oil prices currently in place around the world. As the United States continues to play in Iran’s favor, Tehran’s authoritarian regime stands to grow in power. Organizations researching foreign policy such as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies report Iran’s government has a long record of perpetuating human rights abuses, seeking regional expansion, funding terror attacks against the west, and pursuing nuclear weapons to aid in achieving its goals.

If the United States allows Iran to regenerate its primary economic engine, oil exportation, then Iran is being given the resources and the green light to continue with its pernicious aims. Moreover, the current deal being worked out between the United States and Iran does not stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them over long ranges. Iran has been acting as an ally to Russia and China, and these developments regarding sanctions and oil only serve to strengthen this anti-American alliance. None of these developments benefit the United States’ national interests or the interests of the region Iran occupies. 


Iran in Latin America


iran latin america


For decades, Latin America has been utilized by Iran as a hotbed for generating terrorist activities to facilitate Tehran’s political aims. Some areas in Latin America remain ripe with drug trafficking, cartel operations, and other illicit activities. 

These loosely controlled areas with inconsistent or corrupt political control, in combination with sympathetic Shiite populations in regions such as in Columbia, provide grounds for Iran to carry out their foreign policy aims against their ideological opponents. This list of opponents includes a number of Western entities, but the United States and Israel have been Iran’s primary targets. Latin America also provides Iran with a region to carry out terrorist plots with a smaller chance of large-scale retribution from their ideological adversaries. Despite this history, terrorist activity in Latin America does not receive significant public attention.

Back in 2020, the United States carried out an airstrike that killed Iran’s top general, Qassem Soleimani. Soleimani was the architect behind many Iranian-sponsored terrorist plots and human-rights abuses in the Middle East and abroad. At the time, Iran had been launching rocket attacks and other operations against United States forces in Iraq. In response to the death of Soleimani, Iran and Hezbollah promised retribution

Over the past couple of years, Iran has attempted to carry out terrorist attacks, but these attacks were foiled and failed to come to fruition. These planned attacks were to be carried out against U.S. and Israeli targets. The targets included prominent U.S. and Israeli businessmen and their families, diplomats, embassies, and other interests. Iran and Hezbollah have well-developed networks within Latin America and the Middle East. Using these networks, Iran can continue to both recruit for, and resource future terrorist plots.

A number of these intended attacks were to take place in Latin America and Columbia, according to monitoring organizations such as the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. In one case, Hezbollah operatives involved had previously been expelled from Columbia but were able to return. Drug trafficking operations have been used to facilitate transferring money, personnel, and storing weapons caches for Iranian operatives. 

These operations are at times aided by a number of Shiite mosques in Latin America, many of which are under the influence of Hezbollah and Iranian friendly religious leaders. Often the corruption-ripe justice systems of Latin American countries enable terrorists to avoid prosecution, with terrorist agents being sent back to Iran or other countries instead, as reported by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

There has been a long history, especially active in recent years, of Iranian-sponsored terrorist activity in Latin America. These terrorist activities target U.S. and Israeli interests. With this in mind, it is increasingly likely Iran will attempt further terrorist attacks in the near future, with United States and Israeli personal and interests as the prime targets. These Iranian terrorist plots tend to receive minimal media attention compared to terrorist activities in other regions, which helps keep Latin America a desired area for continued Iranian involvement.  Latin America will serve as Iran’s ideological warzone in the years to come. 

Iran and Trade with the European Union

Iran trade deal


The European Union (EU) invested a considerable amount of resources and political capital into arranging the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCOA) initiated under the Obama Administration. A few years later, the EU also tried hard to prevent former President Trump from withdrawing from the JPCOA. 


Currently, with President Biden in office, the EU is once again moving toward positioning itself as the middle man between the Iranian regime and Washington. Given the EU’s continued investment in nuclear and trade policy with Iran, it begs the question, what does the EU stand to gain from the outcome of this arrangement?


If a deal similar to the JPCOA were to be reenacted between Washington and Tehran, sanctions would be softened, facilitating trade between Iran and Europe. EU states opposed Trump’s maximum pressure campaign, which placed restrictive sanctions on Iran. However, Trump’s maximum pressure sanctions had about the same impact on Iran-European Union trading as the multilateral sanctions did before the JPCOA was enacted. As far as the EU is concerned, Trump’s sanctions serve as a return to the status quo of restricted trade with Iran. The JPCOA represented an opportunity to change this ‘norm.’ 


Moreover, while EU states have access to many trading partners, Iran does not. If sanctions were to be lifted or softened, states in the EU would benefit financially from a more exclusive trading arrangement with Iran. A large part of the impact of sanctions is related to limiting the importation of crude oil from Iran. The JPCOA softened sanctions on Iran, opening up avenues for EU states to gain financially from the treaty through trade and investment opportunities.


Foreign policy researchers indicate that other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, stand to gain from sanctions on Iran. See here for more information on foreign policy research. With oil exports from Iran restricted, other countries such as those in the EU turn to Saudi Arabia for crude oil imports. About 46 percent of oil exports from Saudi Arabia go to the EU. A given country’s position toward sanctions with Iran can reflect what they stand to gain or lose.


The lifting of sanctions provides the EU with an opportunity for financial investment and trade with Iran. During the height of sanctions with Iran, both before the JPCOA and during Trump’s presidency, EU trade with Iran dropped significantly. Additionally, Iran imports goods from the EU. With sanctions in place, the EU is faced with a negative economic impact due to restrictions on importation.


According to experts on international sanctions such as the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, states in the EU stand to gain and seek to open up with Iran. This, despite the negative consequences of less restrictive sanctions policies. The lifting of sanctions and returning to an arrangement similar to the JPCOA trade could empower the Iranian regime and facilitate their nuclear weapons ambitions. 


With renewed trade and a growing economy, the theocratic regime in Iran would be bolstered and strengthened. This strengthening of political capital in combination with greater financial resources would provide Tehran with the means to grow its military and nuclear capabilities to dominate the Middle East and further perpetuate terrorist attacks and human rights abuses.

Biden has No Iran Policy


Over the past several months, the Islamic Republic of Iran has increased its uranium enrichment closer to bomb purity levels, approaching 60%. Additionally, the Iranian regime has further blocked the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) from being able to observe or investigate Iran’s nuclear-related activities. Iran maintains confidential nuclear sites and other related facilities that are not monitored or reported on by any third-party organization. Recent reports suggest that Iran could be as close as one month away from possessing sufficient weapons-grade uranium to produce nuclear weapons. What has the Biden administration been doing about this?

The Biden administration began its term with the intention of reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCOA) originally instituted by the Obama administration and later withdrawn from by Trump in 2018. However, six rounds of negotiations later combined with Iran’s continued advancement of its nuclear weapons production; President Biden appears to be still willing to lift sanctions further or allow weapons advancements just for the opportunity to talk with Iran. Iran appears to be gaining desired concessions from the U.S. without providing anything in return.

Historically, American diplomatic relations with the Iranian regime have been characterized by Washington conceding first and Iran achieving the upper hand. Biden appears to be aimed at continuing this pattern. At this point, Tehran does not appear interested in reentering the JCPOA as it was. Moreover, Tehran is trying to extort further concessions from the United States and its allies in order to simply enter discussions. Given that President Biden has already eased sanctions on Iranian oil exportation without Iran producing anything in return, it appears likely Biden is going to produce further concessions just to get Iran to talk. 

According to a think tank in defense of democracy, following the leadership of the Biden administration, the world appears to be approaching a time where the Islamic Republic’s nuclearization and domination of the Middle East are accepted as the status quo. It has become clear over the past eight months that Biden is not willing to take a hardline against Tehran’s nuclear weaponization or regional domination. As such, in all likelihood, Iran will soon reach a point where it can easily realize its nuclear and regional dominance-related aims. According to organizations that report on nuclear weapons proliferation, such as Foundation for Defence of Democracies, soon there will be no turning back.

Consequently, a nuclear-armed Iran will dominate the Middle East. The United States and other countries will no longer have the ability to significantly influence the region. Other countries such as Saudi Arabia and Israel are strongly interested in limiting Iranian nuclear capabilities, however, they may not have the ability to change Iran’s trajectory. While the current U.S. president and his team may be averse to wielding American power, their current stance will lead to the U.S. becoming unable to wield power in the future. With a region as important as the Middle East at the political whim of the Iranian regime, this will only spell problems for the region and much of the world in the future.

Iran’s New Fanatical President Ebrahim Raisi


A new president has been elected in Iran. Ebrahim Raisi was selected by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, and this selection will serve to further an environment of fear among Iranians who do not support the existing theocracy. Together, President Ebrahim Raisi and Khamenei will support each other’s fanatical dispositions and perpetuation of Iranian intervention in the Middle East, nuclear weapons development, and increased antagonistic relationships with Israel and Arab states near the Persian Golf. The two leaders serve as theocratic ideologues intending to further the Iranian regime’s authoritarian aims and to destroy any opposition to the regime within Iran.

Ebrahim Raisi is preceded by his reputation for ruthless behavior and fanatical support of the Islamic Republic’s theocratic regime. Moreover, Raisi is positioned as a likely successor to Khamenei, who is over 80 years old. According to the FDD organization, Raisi’s political career has demonstrated his alignment with Khamenei’s policies and principles of theocratic authoritarian government. Key to Raisi’s policy portfolio is his lack of opposition regarding Iran returning the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCOA) agreement with the United States. Raisi’s closeness to the supreme leader and his alignment with Khamenei’s policies will help him consolidate power enabling his ascension when the supreme leader passes away. 

Both Khamenei and Raisi understand Iran’s need for large amounts of cash. According to the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, sanctions imposed by the United States have crippled the Iranian regime’s funding used to perpetuate its illicit activities. These activities include nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development, interventionism in the Middle East, and the proliferation of terrorist activities. Reestablishing the terms of the JPCOA will provide Iran with a much-needed cash flow of funds from the U.S., in addition to cash flow to be generated from lifting sanctions.

Raisi has also stated his intentions regarding key Iranian policies. Raisi is unwilling to negotiate or compromise regarding Iran’s ambition to develop ballistic missiles or Iran’s regional expansion or intervention in the Middle East. Raisi was acting in primary national security positions prior to his ascension. His policies have been reflected in Iran’s actions over recent years. Moreover, Ebrahim Raisi intensely dislikes the neighboring Arab monarchies and other states in the Middle East. This includes a strong dislike for Saudi Arabia and the active promotion of anti-Semitism and the destruction of Israel. Additionally, the new president has stated his unwillingness to meet with Biden.

With the ascension of Raisi, the tone of the Islamic Republic for the foreseeable future has been set. This includes fanatical support for nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development, greater regional control in the Middle East, terrorism support, further human rights abuses, and a hostile stance towards Saudi Arabia, Israel, and other states. The Biden administration should observe this development and take this into consideration in handling Iran and regarding rejoining the JPCOA. Any curtailing of Iran’s nefarious activities will come as a consequence of the United States and allied policies, not from within the regime’s leadership. Rejoining the JPCOA will only enable Iran’s theocratic leaders to succeed in their destructive and destabilizing goals.

The Biden Administration Must Choose with Iran



Currently, negotiations are underway to attempt to find a replacement deal for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). More specifically, the new Biden administration is trying to find a way to make the Islamic Republic of Iran return to the terms of the now-defunct JCPOA. At the moment, the negotiations are centered around what the United States and the West will pay or give to Iran in order for Iran to consent to return to the severely flawed JCPOA deal.

Iran is the world’s most prolific sponsor of state-backed terrorism. Unfortunately, a return to the JCPOA would only provide Iran with a clear path toward obtaining nuclear weapons in the future while simultaneously being given significant sums of money and economic relief by the West. The Center on Military and Political Power reports that this outcome provides the Iranian regime with everything it desires. The Iranian government is currently facing an economic crisis with dwindling reserves. Additionally, Iran’s primarily uranian enrichment facility experienced an explosion recently, further setting back Iran’s ability to achieve its nuclear ambitions. According to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, reentering the JCPOA alone would provide Iran with both a pathway to economic recovery and nuclear weapons in the future. It is not clear why it would be advantageous for the West or the Iranian people for the regime to be economically strengthened and given nuclear weapons capabilities.

Reentering the JCPOA does not provide the United States or the West with any tangible benefit nor leverage over Iran. Each of the items that the Iranian government is struggling with stands as potential leverage for the United States and the West. However, the Biden administration is not utilizing any of these options as leverage in the current negotiations.

Iran is successfully wielding the threat of nuclear escalation to exploit the West into yielding significant economic concessions via sanction relief, payment, and reentering the defunct JCPOA deal. Re-entering the JCPOA  will enable the regime to legally begin using advanced nuclear centrifuges and grow their enrichment capabilities. The likelihood of this outcome has been observed by many organizations. When the restrictions from the JCPOA sunset over the next several years, Iran will have everything in place needed to begin nuclear weapons production while receiving massive economic aid to bolster the government in the meantime. Even during the 2015 JCPOA agreement, Iran violated the terms by advancing its nuclear production capabilities; therefore, any sunsetting nuclear limitations that are reentered with the Biden administration are not likely to be followed. Moreover, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently found the Iranian regime has been hiding non-disclosed nuclear materials.

The old JCPOA deal needs to be fixed before Biden considers reentering the deal with Iran. The sunsetting provisions need to be addressed. Iran’s past and current violations of the deal need to be reconciled. A new deal should address Iran’s production of nuclear materials, nuclear weaponization, and their means for delivering nuclear weapons. All three of these items must be addressed for a deal to have any hope of curbing Iran’s nuclear goals. The United States should permanently end Iran’s path toward acquiring nuclear weapons and not enable Iran to obtain nuclear armament.

Washington’s Negotiation with Iran: Rejoin the JCPOA?

President Joe Biden and Tehran have already begun negotiations to determine the path forward regarding Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The negotiations center around the expiring Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal reached under the Obama administration. Previously, Biden expressed his desire to return to the 2015 JCPOA. Some of the JCPOA’s original authors from the Obama-era are back to work again inside Biden’s executive administration. However, if the Biden administration is serious about reigning in Iran’s desire to develop nuclear weapons, the United States needs to reject re-entering into the JCPOA. Returning to the terms outlined in the JCPOA will ultimately lead to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.

If the United States decides to revive the dying JCPOA, the Obama-era agreement will do little to deter Iran. The JCPOA is set to expire soon, and organizations such as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies point to limitations inherent to the JCPOA. The JCPOA’s restrictions on Iran’s nuclear weapons program are set to expire, even if the deal is re-entered. The hoped-for modernization of Iran that was supposed to occur as a consequence of the JCPOA agreement did not bear fruit, nor would it be likely to in the future. Additionally, United Nations-sponsored asset-freezes intended for supporters of Iran’s nuclear program are set to expire soon as well. Any plan to re-enter the agreement would not achieve anything beneficial to the United States or its allies.

It has already been revealed that Iran probably intends to maintain a secret nuclear weapons program, regardless of any agreement or treaty. Despite the JCPOA’s intentions, Tehran violated the agreement’s restrictions many times. Reports from Leading foreign policy think tanks such as the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies indicate these violations included prohibited ballistic missile tests, importing illicit missile equipment, exporting weapons to militias in Iraq and Yemen, and other violations. Based on Iran’s behavior, it seems clear that Tehran did not intend to fully honor the JCPOA regardless of the international community’s disposition towards the agreement.

In response to the sunsetting nature of the JCPOA, Iran’s violations of the agreement, and other shortcomings, the Trump administration had re-postured the United States to a more restrictive and tougher stance toward Iran. This tougher stance included sanctions toward those who would help enable Iran’s procurement of nuclear weapons and related military equipment.

As the JCPOA currently stands, it is a good deal for Iran. It allows for nuclear weapons procurement in the near future and the easing of sanctions and restrictions. The deal provided Iran with financial relief for its struggling economy. The Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign has been mitigating the Iranian regime’s ability to function as an effective government and may be able to produce significantly tangible benefits if it is maintained by the new president. According to policy institutes promoting the defense of democracy around the world, the best deal for the United States and its allies is to keep the pressure on Iran. Pushing forward existing stations will create further leverage over Tehran needed to negotiate the end of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and human rights abuses.

Keeping the pressure on Iran will require diplomatic effort. Rebuilding effective relationships in Europe and elsewhere in the world will enable a more effective and toughened stance on Iran. Biden’s administration has an opportunity to demonstrate to the rest of the world that the United States will maintain its disposition of serious intent toward stopping Tehran from obtaining nuclear weapons capabilities. This effort would be a difficult but necessary undertaking. As the provisions under the JCPOA approach their sunset, the Biden administration needs to take action to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions.

Emerging Challenge to U.S. Cyber Security from Iran and Russia

foundation for defense of democracies

Russia and Iran have formally partnered to expand their joint communications technology and cyber warfare capabilities. These increased cyber capabilities constitute an emerging significant threat to the United States and the international community. In addition to signifying an emerging threat internationally, the increased cyber capabilities of these authoritarian regimes constitute a threat to the citizens of their own countries. This joint agreement will aid their governments in both suppressing dissent within their own borders as well as in expanding their capabilities to interfere with Western systems of free and open use of the internet.

The agreement will help Russia and Iran facilitate cybersecurity, cyberwarfare, exchange of technologies, training, and coordination of efforts toward interfering with the international community. Additionally, implied in this agreement is the sharing of information regarding U.S. cyber operations and capabilities. This sharing of information creates an additional security threat to the U.S. and its allies. Within Russia and Iran, think tanks including the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies report this agreement will help facilitate the authoritarian governments’ building of surveillance states within their own countries. Shared advancements in technology, cyberinfrastructure, and technology training will enable the surveillance of civilians and political dissent to become more feasible and pernicious. Russia and Iran have also agreed to assist each other in developing software and technology resources based in their own countries, as opposed to in the West which is currently the norm. This includes developing alternatives to common western computer operating systems such as Windows, internet hosting, as well as other software platforms and internet technologies.

Through shared technology, training, and resources, Russia and Iran will be able to further authoritarian aims at home and abroad. According to The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a leading think tank in DC, this agreement includes the presentation of mutually favorable media coverage, producing favorable media content, imposing counter-narratives to Western media, and cooperation in targeting media toward western audiences. Overall, the agreement will perpetuate greater authoritarian state influence and control of the open internet.

At present, United States’ cyber capabilities are not optimally effective. Members of the United States Congress and the Government Accountability Office have been critical of U.S. cyber capabilities, highlighting their problems and inadequacies. There are known issues with interagency coordination and cooperation, underfunding, and other problems. 

In order to counter the growing authoritarian cyber threat, the Biden administration will need to allocate resources and provide the leadership necessary for the United States to maintain a strong and unified cyber defense capability. Organizations promoting the defense of democracies argue that if regimes like that of Russia and Iran get their way, international use of free and open internet may become compromised. 

Russia and Iran are aiming to further their ability to control what is presented on the internet for international and domestic media consumption and to spread propagandistic narratives to further their own interests and control their own populations. While conventional military threats often garner the most popular attention, cyber threats also pose a significant threat to the Western way of life. Cyber threats require attention, funding, and support in order to be properly addressed.




Title: Israel’s Missile Defense Tests Affirm Advanced Systems and Send Clear Messages

Rafael Advanced Systems recently led testing for Israel’s missile defense systems to coordinate with Israel’s Navy and Air Force with resounding success. The productive tests augment Israel’s overall strategic and operational abilities by delivering interoperability. The complex functions required and successfully carried out by both people and systems result in their preparedness to mitigate current and future threats.


Israel leveraged RAS to test the following systems:


  • Arrow: Intercepts long-range missiles
  • David’s Sling: Targets medium-range missiles
  • Iron Dome: Defends against rocket fire


The Brigadier General who oversees Israel’s Air Force defense program, Ran Kochav, highlighted the live drill simulation’s complexity. His comments on the intricacy of the human and technological decision-making required to complete the task point to integrating artificial intelligence in their advanced defense systems. Cruise missiles, in particular, present a challenge to intercept as they are maneuverable at high, fast speeds, but the tests accomplished this task simultaneously along with others. In addition to cruise missiles, the defense system protects against various weapons, including unmanned aerial vehicles and ballistic threats. Analysis by think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracy suggests the tests send a clear message to Israel’s foes that they are equipped and prepared to combat a range of attacks and to retaliate against attacks.


Israel—With the U.S. as Ally—Faces a Variety of Threats


Israel faces threats from various sources, including Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, Iranian-proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Iran itself. For its part, Iran is currently limited to short and medium-range missiles. However, a leading author on Iran and other experts express concern that they may develop long-range ones. Hezbollah will likely attempt to import guided missiles if they are not available to develop their own. The combination of guided missiles and Israel’s enemies in proximity to them creates the possibility of precision-attacks on multiple targets in Israel.


In addition to the threat facing Israel, Iran also presents a clear and present threat to the U.S. in the Middle East. General Frank McKenzie, commander of the U.S. Central Command, cited an Iranian ballistic missile inventory of 2,500-3,000. While Iran does not yet possess intercontinental ballistic missiles, their current supply of short and mid-range missiles, PGMs, and combat drones can strike with precision in their surrounding area, including targets in Iran and U.S. personnel and military assets in Iraq and other areas. The “Fotros” long-range attack drone, for example, can fly for 30 hours and has a range of 1,250 miles.


leading bi-partisan research institution notes Iran and its proxies have escalated rocket attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq since Mary of 2019. One attack, occurring on January 8, 2020, led to the downing of a Ukraine civilian airliner. The attack came on the heels of the U.S. execution via drone strike of IRGC’s top general, Qassem Soleimani. More recently, they targeted the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.


Successful Missile Defense Tests Send a Strong Message

Not only are Israel’s successful tests indicative of an advanced, multilayered defense system with interoperability, but they also send a clear message to Israel’s foes. The Israel Defense Forces regard Iran’s nuclear program as its number one threat and Hezbollah’s precision-guided munitions as number two. Thus, the live test results communicate a clear message to both groups that Israel is prepared to defend against such attacks and willing to both intercept and retaliate. To that end, Benjamin Netanyahu signed off on the recent National Security Strategy, which communicates that Israel can be prepared to target terrorists, even if those targets reside in key places in Tehran and Lebanon.

A national security research fellow, along with other foreign policy experts, maintains that recent strides in peace-making efforts in the Middle East support stability in the region. While it remains unclear whether Israel will share advanced weapon defense with its new partners, such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, what is certain is the vested interest those countries share. A Biden administration would be well-served to support those countries’ ongoing partnerships in the region rather than revisiting deals with Iran.

Iran’s Growing Air Defense Capability

Iran recently conducted a significant military air defense drill showcasing its newly updated air defense systems. This has been a significant military arms-related event among several in recent years, along with Iran’s attempt to ship ballistic missiles to Venezuela. This drill included the use of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), radars, launchers, and command-and-control technology, according to a leading nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security. In the past, international focus has been on Iran’s capability to make offensive war, this drill shifts the spotlight onto its equally impactful defensive capabilities. Iran has positioned its air defense systems over many locations within the country, and top leaders of an organization following foreign policy argue that confidence in home-based air defense creates an understanding that any retaliation from opponents is less likely. This, in turn, provides Iran more freedom to realize any ambitions for offensive action in the region.

The drill, named “Defenders of the Velayat’s Skies-99” is one of a series of joint drills conducted by the Iranian military’s air defense branches. The use of Iran’s air defense capabilities in military drills has become an increasing priority over the past several years. The effectiveness of their new air defense systems was highlighted when Iran destroyed an American drone in 2019 and accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner more recently in 2020.

It makes sense that Iran has decided to display large-scale military drills while it is hampered by sanctions and the potential for domestic unrest due to the coronavirus. Public military drills serve as a primary means of deterrence to any aggressor that would be assuming a degree of weakened capability from the Iranian regime, according to a Washington-based think tank. Iran’s military displays also serve as a message to the United States to back down from its intent to stymy Iran’s oppressive regime.

While Defenders of the Velayat’s Skies-99 should be taken seriously, Iran’s air defense capabilities are still limited. The United States and its allies have the capability to defeat Iran’s current air defense technology. Nonetheless, Iran’s defenses are becoming more effective, and presently constitute an additional layer of difficulty for any potential attacker, as well as some degree of deterrence.

Iran’s air defense drill is also indicative of potential future problems for the region. Russia has signaled its willingness to sell its more effective S-400 SAM air defense system. If Iran were to purchase this system, its ability to shoot down aircraft will be augmented. This would provide the capability to target aircraft in regions further outside of Iran and along international trading routes. Given the apparent failure of the international community to limit Iran’s arms imports and other limitations, this creates additional concern. Enforcement of Iran’s weapon embargo has been largely unsuccessful internationally. 

Given Iran’s recent air defense drill and the possibility of Iran gaining access to the S-400 SAM air defense system, it is important that this situation is taken with seriousness. Top experts on Iran warn that such a move could provide Iran greater freedom to militarily expand in the region, and impose on international trade. The United States and the international community need to make a concerted and effective effort to halt Iran’s regional and military ambitions. Efforts so far to curb Iran’s military technology growth have been insufficient.