Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out the U.S.’s new tough stance on Iran, emphasizing the Trump administration’s post-nuclear-deal approach to the Islamic Republic is nothing less than what the global consensus was before the deal was signed.
In 2012, then-president Obama said, “The deal we’ll accept is [that] they end their nuclear program.”
In 2013, the French foreign minister said he was wary of being sucked into a “con game” re: Iranian uranium enrichment
In 2015, then-secretary of state John Kerry said, “We don’t recognize the right [of Iran] to enrich [uranium].”
The deal has been exposed as a failure on these points (as well as many others) and the U.S. decided to pull out. So what in store for the mullahs now?
Here’s the basis of the U.S. plan:
1. Sanctions are going back in full effect and new ones are coming
Last week, the U.S.sanctioned the head of Iran’s central bank and other entities funneling money to the IRGC Quds Force, Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations
“This is just the beginning,” Pompeo said. “Iran will be forced to make a choice: Either fight to keep its economy off life support at home or keep squandering precious wealth on fights abroad. It will not have the resources to do both.”
2. Iranian aggression will be stymied
Pompeo said the Defense Department and the U.S.’s regional allies will work together to:
assure freedom of navigation in regional waters
squash Iran’s cyber activity
track down and crush Iranian operatives and their Hezbollah proxies operating around the world
end for good Iranian ability to dominate the Middle East
cause “bigger problems than [Iran] ever had before” if the regime restarts its nuclear program
3. Advocate tirelessly for the Iranian people
Economically (for Iran to stop wasting its money abroad in foreign wars)
For human rights (including for women not to be forced to wear a hijab)
Against government mismanagement of natural resources (which caused serious environmental crises)
4. For a new agreement including sanctions relief, Iran must meet 12 basic demands:
Come clean to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about all prior military dimensions of its nuclear program and permanently and verifiably abandon such work in perpetuity
Stop enriching uranium and never pursue plutonium reprocessing, including closing its heavy water reactor
Provide the IAEA with unqualified access to all sites throughout the entire country
End its proliferation of ballistic missiles and halt further launching or development of nuclear-capable missile systems
Release all U.S. citizens, as well as citizens of U.S. partners and allies (all have been detained on spurious charges)
End support to Middle East terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad
Respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi government and permit the disarming, demobilization and reintegration of Shiite militias
End military support for the Houthi militia and work towards a peaceful political settlement in Yemen
Withdraw all forces under Iranian command in Syria
End support for the Taliban and other terrorists in Afghanistan and the region and cease harboring senior al-Qaeda leaders
End the IRG Quds Force’s support for terrorists and militant partners around the world
End threatening behavior against neighbors — including Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — as well as against international shipping concerns and end cyberattacks
The plan is, ambitious, but as Pompeo said, “Ali Khamenei has been supreme leader since 1989. He will not live forever, nor will the Iranian people abide [by] the rigid rules of tyrants forever.”
Iran was on its knees due to crippling sanctions when it came to the table to negotiate the nuclear deal. If the U.S. had kept up those sanctions and supported the Iranian people in the 2009 Green Movement against its leaders, it is possible that the ayatollah wouldn’t be around today terrorizing his people and the world at large.
We now understand why then-president Obama had a hands-off attitude during this volatile and potentially revolutionary time in Iran; his single-focused and misguided desire to negotiate with Iran at any cost (witness his squashing of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration investigations and arrests of Hezbollah agents to pave the way for his “legacy deal”).
But the deal didn’t work. Obama may have thought that sanctions relief would motivate Iran to join the “family of nations.” He may have thought that an empowered Iran would be the key to balance the centuries-old Sunni-Shiite animosity.
Yet that thinking was flawed as it didn’t take into account the ideologically-driven desire for dominance of the ayatollahs and their true reason for taking over the country in the 1979 Islamic revolution (even the Iranian people underestimated that).
Moreover, the Obama administration’s blinders — as well as the European’s desire to reap the enormous economic benefits of being able to do business with Iran – both contributed to willingness on the part of the West to be duped by Iran and enter into a toothless deal.
The hope is the Trump administration’s new plan will reverse all that.