Rogue Iran Is a Global Threat
Donald Trump is right to put Tehran on notice. But the nuclear deal is just the tip of the iceberg.
Despite the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran remains the most serious threat today to peace and security in the Middle East, if not the world. With the international community now rightfully returning its attention to Iran, now is the time for an approach that focuses not only on whether Iran is fulfilling the letter of the nuclear agreement but also the myriad array of threats emanating from Tehran. The international community must forcefully implement existing U.N. Security Council resolutions and penalize those who defy them.
The nuclear agreement’s flaw is that it allows the ayatollahs — like a chef who places all his ingredients on the counter to be mixed when ready — to pick up their nuclear program right where they left off when it suits them. The deal’s loopholes allow the Iranian regime to ensure that only predesignated sites are inspected for nuclear activity. More importantly, even if Iran does not cheat for the duration of the agreement, the nuclear threat will re-emerge the day the sunset clauses set in. This is why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently called on the six Western signatories of the agreement to either “fix it or nix it.”
The nuclear problem, however, is only one component of the overall Iranian threat.
U.N. Security Council resolutions adopted over the past decade have focused not only on the nuclear threat but also on Iran’s role as the world’s largest state supporter of terrorism and on its advanced missile program. Annex B of resolution 2231, which was adopted in 2015 and endorsed the JCPOA, called upon Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” The same annex of the Security Council resolution also banned the “supply, sale, or transfer of arms or related materiel from Iran by their nationals.”
Since the signing of the JCPOA and the resulting influx of cash into the Iranian economy, Tehran has been emboldened, and its bad behavior has been ignored, if not encouraged. In fact, Iran’s support for terrorism throughout the region has only grown. In Lebanon, Iran has rearmed Hezbollah terrorists, who now possess more than 100,000 rockets and missiles that threaten Israel. Many villages in southern Lebanon have been turned into terrorist outposts filled with weapons and ammunition — much of it supplied by Iran.
The situation in Syria is even more volatile. The world has seen significant victories in the war against the Islamic State, but the vacuum has been swiftly filled by Iran — including a significant presence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and other Iranian forces. Some reports indicate that they are also building sophisticated missile facilities and pushing on with their efforts to secure a Mediterranean base in the Syrian port city of Latakia.
Together with the recent warming of relations with Hamas terrorists in Gaza and its support for the Houthis in Yemen, Iran is clearly violating Security Council resolutions banning its export of arms and military knowledge to other nationalities.
Iran’s missile program is perhaps even more dangerous than its support of terrorism. According to some estimates, since July 2015 — when the nuclear agreement was reached — Iran has conducted more than a dozen ballistic missile tests. International experts are in agreement that such weapons, many capable of reaching Israel and beyond, are the most likely delivery option for an eventual nuclear device and clearly do not have a defensive purpose — as the Islamic Republic claims.
Iran’s defiance of the Security Council on this matter is clear. Just a few weeks ago, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani brazenly declared, “We will strengthen our missile capabilities.” Iran’s military chief of staff, Seyyed Abdolrahim Mousavi, spelled out Iranian intentions this month, threatening to destroy Israel at “lightning speed” and to “turn Tel Aviv and Haifa into dust.”
The steps forward are clear, and the tools organizing international action already exist. There must be consequences for Iran’s dangerous actions. As U.S. President Donald Trump said when announcing his decision not to recertify the JCPOA, “trigger points” must be established to monitor Iranian actions. Every defiance of the Security Council must be met with strict enforcement of the relevant sanctions. If these steps are not sufficient in changing Iran’s attitudes, then the same powers must come together to pass new sanctions against the ayatollahs and their allies.
The JCPOA remains a harmful agreement that has brought great risk to the entire international community. If, however, supporters of the deal want to convince others of its merits, they must demonstrate that Iran will be held accountable when it defies internationally sanctioned frameworks.
Strict enforcement against Iran is not only in the interest of Israel and the other Middle East countries directly threatened by Tehran. Failure to hold Iran in check will not only lead to more terrorism but to the near certainty that the day will come when Iran will openly defy the nuclear agreement.