What the Trump administration must to do after announcement of the new US strategy on Iran.
On Friday, US President Donald Trump decertified [VIDEO]the Iran nuclear deal, citing Iran’s violation of the ‘spirit’ of the deal, thereby initiating the process by which Congress can vote to re-impose suspended sanctions within 60 days. #The President supplemented the decertification with outlining a broad new strategy toward the Iranian regime, targeting not only its nuclear ambitions but also its regional threats, “particularly its support for terrorism and militants.” He announced the designation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist entity.
Spirit of the deal
Many defenders of the JCPOA reject Trump’s references to the deal’s spirit. But this position ignores the fact that there were indeed broader intentions behind the nuclear agreement – intentions that the president is required to consider when reporting to Congress on the status of the deal.
Congressional ratification of that deal was contingent upon the president not only periodically verifying Iranian compliance but also affirming that the ongoing suspension of sanctions is in the vital national security interest of the #United States. And this is not just something that the US arbitrarily added to the multilateral agreement; it is an extension of the language used in the preamble of the JCPOA, which states that the signatories “anticipate that full implementation of this JCPOA will positively contribute to regional and international peace and security.”
Therefore, if there is reason to believe that the agreement is having the opposite effect, as by facilitating the escalation of Iran’s destabilizing influence in the region, then there is adequate justification for revisiting the agreement’s terms and enforcement.
The simple fact is that Iran is not living up to the spirit of the deal, and that is important to the future of the deal itself, and also to broader calculations regarding international policy toward Iran.
Missiles program and causing instability
The problem with sanctions relief is and always has been that it opens up the possibility of Tehran utilizing newfound wealth for the expansion of activities that directly undermine the broader purpose of the JCPOA. Even if the agreement had succeeded in constraining the regime’s nuclear ambitions, the door would be open to more regional interventions by the IRGC, expanded weapons development including the development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, and more arms transfers to non-state actors, along with the general support of terrorist groups with well-established links to Tehran.
And indeed, this is exactly what has happened. There is even reliable intelligence, as presented in a newly released report by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), to suggest that this is precisely the strategy laid out by the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in the wake of the nuclear negotiations.
Although the JCPOA was decidedly favorable to Tehran, the fact remains that the mere decision by Tehran to sit down at the negotiating table was the acknowledgment of a serious crisis and the existence of compelling Western leverage against the regime. In order to compensate for the appearance of compromise with bitter enemies, Khamenei set out to boost the regime’s ego and force-projection elsewhere.
This preoccupation has been reaffirmed time and again since the deal went into effect. Domestically, it has been expressed through the increased frequency of close, potentially dangerous encounters between IRGC vessels and US Navy ships. And on the global stage, it has been expressed through provocative missile tests backed up by severe anti-Western rhetoric, and by the deep integration of the Iranian regime’s mercenaries into conflicts in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.
Mass regional terrorism
By July 2016, the Iranian regime had deployed 70,000 fighters to the civil war in Syria alone, contributing greatly to the destruction of Aleppo and effectively forestalling any political solution involving the removal of the brutal dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad. Now, it is widely believed that a permanent foothold has been established in the country not only for the IRGC’s extraterritorial wing, the Quds Force but also for Iranian proxies like Hezbollah.
The same is true in Iraq, where Iranian officials have made it clear that they will not accept the dissolution of the “Popular Mobilization Forces,” a coalition of extremist militia groups that have been modeled after the IRGC’s Basij paramilitary in Iran. Elements of the PMU have been accused of ethnic cleansing of Sunni communities, underscoring the fact that an expanded Iranian presence in the region may simply replace the Islamic State (ISIS) with a comparable militant threat supported by the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.
Threatening global security
In any event, existing Shiite militant groups like Hezbollah are certainly benefiting from the growth in Iranian wealth and influence. These are among the groups that have enjoyed dramatic improvements in the missile capabilities as a result of Iranian collaboration. Furthermore, their general receipt of funding from the regime has also grown in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal and its financial windfalls for Tehran. There is simply no question as to whether this undermines the national security interests of the United States or the overall global security interest. And in so doing, it also plainly undermines the spirit of the JCPOA. There is also no question as to whether these sorts of activities will continue to expand. They will do so unless additional, coordinated efforts are undertaken to rein in Iran’s malicious behavior and to shore up the weaknesses in the nuclear agreement.
What needs to be done
At various times since the JCPOA went into effect, Tehran has proudly and publicly expanded its missile activities and its funding for the foreign activities of the IRGC. It is time for the international community to seriously question the value of any agreement which allows Iran to carry on such activities with impunity. Now that the administration has announced a new strategy toward Iran, practical actions need to be taken to ensure Tehran is in compliance.
First, the IRGC’s murderous forces need to be evicted and expelled from the region, including Syria and Iraq. Second, the regime’s access to the international banking system must be cut off. Third, UN Security Council resolutions must be implemented completely with respect to the regime’s nuclear weapons project. There should also be unconditional access to the regime’s military and non-military sites, without exception. And finally, the regime’s human rights abuses must be referred to the Security Council, including its massacre of 30,000 political prisoners in Iran in 1988.
It would be one thing if the JCPOA definitively halting Tehran’s nuclear progress, but Iranian regime officials themselves have repeatedly boasted that it does no such thing. In hopes of coercing the other signatories into standing by the deal, figures like regime Foreign Minister Javad Zarif have threatened to immediately resume nuclear activities at a much higher level than before the deal went into effect. Such threats should only serve as a wakeup call regarding the need to address the mullahs’ ambitions with much more assertiveness. Only this would be in keeping with the spirit of the JCPOA.