U.S. Offers Feckless Response to Iranian Belligerence

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Iran has stepped up its belligerency in the Middle East since signing the nuclear agreement, increasing its involvement in conflicts from Syria and Iraq to Yemen and flaunting its forbidden ballistic missile program.

The United States, for its part, has reacted fecklessly, fudging its redlines regarding the Islamic Republic and making empty threats.

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama commented that Iran was obeying the “letter” of the nuclear agreement with the West, but not the “spirit” of it.

The president’s remark came after the second testing of ballistic missiles (designed to carry nuclear warheads) by the Islamic Republic. While Congress was originally told a moratorium on the Iranian ballistic missile program was part of the agreement, the administration decided it really wasn’t – and that the test constituted “merely” a violation of U.N. resolutions.

No matter that in the latest test, conducted while Joe Biden was visiting Tel Aviv, the missiles had Hebrew writing on them saying “Israel should be wiped out.”

The harshest criticism Obama could muster against the test was that such provocations would be bad for international trade as they would make countries “nervous” to do business with Iran.

Similarly, Congress was told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be conducting inspections of all Iranian nuclear facilities and would have full, independent access. We then heard that two key passages of the Iran deal were kept secret – not only from Congress, but from the president himself.

The secret deal involved the Parchin military installation, which was under suspicion for years for conducting research on nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles. The second centered on negotiations between the IAEA and Iran to resolve the issue of possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program.

After allowing Iran to take its own samples from Parchin, the IAEA declared the issue of possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program was now over, freeing billions of dollars in sanctions relief for the Islamists.

Again, there was no reaction from the U.S. administration. Now, that inaction is (finally) prompting outrage in Congress. As Jennifer Rubin writes in the The Washington Post, “Congressional leaders from both parties are firing back over what they see is evidence that Congress was blatantly misled about the terms of the deal and the administration’s willingness to confront Iran’s non-nuclear behavior.” 

As Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) said, “When multiple officials—including Secretary Kerry, Secretary Lew, and Ambassador Mull—testify in front of Members of Congress, we are inclined to believe them. However, the gap between their promises on the Iran nuclear deal and today’s scary reality continues to widen. We are now trying to determine whether this was intentional deception on the part of the administration or new levels of disturbing acquiescence to the Iranians.”

In the last weeks, it was reported that:

  • Iran warned the United States that it would be crossing a “redline” if it tried to stop Iran’s ballistic missile program. In the words of Iranian Deputy Chief of Staff Brig.-Gen. Maassoud  Jazzayeri, "The White House should know that defense capacities and missile power, especially at the present juncture where plots and threats are galore, is among the Iranian nation's red lines and a backup for the country's national security and we don’t allow anyone to violate it."
  • Iran is beefing up its military presence in Syria by sending an elite unit of commandos as “advisors” to be stationed near Aleppo.  The elite force joins thousands of Iranian troops from its Revolutionary Guards Corps as well as Iranian-backed fighters from the Lebanese terror organization Hezbollah.
  • A U.S. Navy ship seized thousands of rifles and rocket-propelled grenades after stopping an Iranian arms shipment on its way to Yemen. It was the third such seizure in the last few weeks in the Arabian Sea.

Congress must use its power to impose new sanctions on Iran. In addition, lawmakers can extend a number of sanctions that are due to expire this year.

With or without the support of the current administration, Iran represents a threat to the world and must be stopped.


Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org