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January 10, 2023 6:00 pm
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‘It’s Time for a Plan B’: War Crimes Accusation May Indicate Biden Admin Iran Policy Shift, Experts Say

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avatar by Andrew Bernard

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan speaks to reporters during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 11, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Monday told reporters that Iran may be “contributing to widespread war crimes” in Ukraine, a shift in rhetoric which experts say could signal an attempt by the Biden administration to hold the regime accountable for how Russia uses Iran’s weapons.

The State Department has said that Iran has become Russia’s most important supplier of security assistance, including the provision of drones and other weapons that Russia has used in indiscriminate attacks against Ukrainian cities and civilian infrastructure.

Henry Rome, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Algemeiner that this is the first time the Biden administration had explicitly accused Iran of complicity in war crimes in Ukraine.

“This is mainly a sharpening of US rhetoric aimed at deterring Tehran,” Rome said. “It could also potentially be a trial balloon for Iran’s inclusion in future war-crimes related investigations, such as the one that the European Commission has proposed.”

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In November, the European Commission presented options to EU member states on holding Russia to account for war crimes in Ukraine, including a special independent international tribunal. Neither Russia nor Iran have ratified the Rome Statute — the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC) — ruling out an ICC trial

“I think it’s clear that Iran is contributing to Russian war crimes in Ukraine,” Orde Kittrie, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former State Department attorney, told The Algemeiner. “Iran transferred these lethal drones to Russia many months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It was clear to all, based on what Russia was already doing with its own missiles, that Russia would use these drones in egregious violation of the law of armed conflict, by deliberately or indiscriminately using the drones to attack civilian persons and objects. Yet the Iranian regime transferred these lethal drones to Russia anyway, and Russia indeed used them to commit war crimes.”

Kittrie added that he hopes Sullivan’s comments indicate a new posture towards Iran by the Biden administration.

“Biden recently admitted that negotiations to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program are ‘dead’ and called for a ‘free Iran.’  It’s time for a Plan B: a coordinated new US strategy to support the Iranian people’s goal of establishing a government that abandons the quest for nuclear weapons and is neither internally repressive nor regionally aggressive,” Kittrie said.

In December, previously unreleased video showed President Biden saying that negotiations to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal were “dead” but that “we’re not gonna announce it.” White House and State Department officials have insisted for months that the negotiations are no longer on the administration’s agenda.

Abdolrasool-Farzam Divsallar, a non-resident scholar affiliated with the Middle East Institute, said that while it was too early to mark a shift in Biden administration policy, Sullivan’s words could make Iran think twice before transferring deadlier arms to Russia.

“It’s more a US strategy to raise the cost for Iran and prevent further future arms deliveries that may include more lethal weapons, such as missiles,” Divsallar said.

Follow Algemeiner Washington Correspondent Andrew Bernard on Twitter @AndrewJBernie

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