Iran Flouts One Rule. Why Not All?
By Jonathan S. Tobin
December 8, 2015
In October, we
noted here that only weeks after the Iran nuclear deal had been rammed
down the throats of a reluctant Congress and American people, Tehran had already
begun violating it. As news spread of an Iranian long-range missile test in
violation of a United Nations Security Council resolution as well as the
restrictions promised by the Obama administration, it soon became clear that
Washington wasn’t interested in pursuing the matter. Though Samantha Powers,
the U.S. Ambassador to the UN said America was “deeply concerned” about the
matter, that’s as far as it went. Indeed, when President Obama was asked about
the situation, he dismissed it by saying, “I think what we’ll be doing is
we’ll review, as we have in the past, any violations of U.N. resolutions, and
we’ll deal with them much as we have in the past.” Which is to say, he would
forget about it and hope his Iranian negotiating partners wouldn’t embarrass
him quite so blatantly again.
But the Iranians didn’t
interpret Obama’s laconic response as a favor that should be rewarded with
future good behavior. As
Fox News reports, senior U.S. intelligence officials have confirmed a
second major missile test was conducted by Iran on November 24 near its border
with Pakistan. The missile was a Ghadr-110 and has a range of 1,200 miles and is
capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to an Israeli target. This missile is an
improved version of the Emad, the type tested in October and also a
technological step up from its existing arsenal.
This is a serious violation of two
UNSC resolutions about Iranian missiles that were passed in the wake of the
signing of the nuclear deal. Along with other resolutions that lifted the
international sanctions placed on Iran, they formed a ratification package that
was supposed to give Tehran what it wanted in exchange for the limits that were
set on its nuclear and missile programs.
Yet when asked about the test
yesterday, another senior administration official merely said that the White
House was “aware” of the problem but had “no further comment at the
What explains Iran’s
determination to push ahead with these tests?
One interpretation is that they
are racing against the clock to finish all ballistic tests this year before
preparing to accept the UN restrictions. That might be one option for the
Iranian leadership. But given the apathetic reaction from an Obama
administration that spent the first half of 2015 pledging vigilant enforcement
of the deals it was advocating, it is impossible to argue that they should feel
afraid of the consequences of further violations.
The problem here isn’t so much
these particular missiles, although they do pose a potentially lethal
threat both to Israel and moderate Arab nations in the region. Rather, it is the
precedent that has been set by an American refusal to take Iran’s violations
of these agreements seriously.
All along critics of the Iran deal
predicted that enforcement of the nuclear deal would not only hinge on
inspections and transparency about Tehran’s nuclear program. Rather, the
validity of the agreement would probably rest just as much on the willingness of
the U.S. and its Western allies to come down on the Iranians like a ton of
bricks at the least sign of a violation. If small rules were broken then big
ones would follow as the Islamist regime tested U.S. forbearance for cheating.
But we don’t have to wait any
longer to know what the results of that test will be. The Iranians already know
that President Obama never had any intention of treating the deal and related
restrictions on missiles as sacrosanct. The point of the exercise wasn’t so
much to stop the Iranian nuclear program since the pact allows Tehran to
continue its research and will expire in a decade anyway. What the president
clearly wanted was a mechanism to affect a rapprochement with Iran that would
allow him to end the long standoff between the two governments. Moreover, Obama
sees Iran as an ally in the struggle against ISIS. That explains his reluctance
to take action against Iran’s Syrian ally Bashar Assad.
But the reliance on Iran as an
ally against ISIS is mistaken on two counts.
It commits the U.S. to a hands-off
approach to Assad, guaranteeing that Syrians that hate the regime will never
back a compromise that leaves him in power while also alienating the Arab
governments that are needed to form a regional coalition aimed at ousting the
Islamic State from power.
But it also misses the point about
Iran’s role in the Middle East. As
Ruthie Blum notes in Israel Hayom, the U.S. is forgetting that
Iran remains the largest and most dangerous state sponsor of terrorism in the
world. In that sense, though ISIS is dangerous in its own right, it also
providing the perfect distraction for Iran as it continues it surreptitious
efforts to create a nuclear weapon.
With the missile test violations
under its belt and the U.S. uttering not a word in reply, Tehran is set to begin
the period covered by the nuclear deal preparing to push the envelope on all of
its restrictions. Their path to a bomb is assured by the fact that the deal
expires, but Iran may not be satisfied with waiting for it to expire.
The attention of the public has
moved on from the Iran deal as Americans wonder what their irresolute president
will do to halt further ISIS depredations after Paris and now, apparently, in
San Bernardino. That concern has now been overtaken by the debate over Donald
Trump’s idiotic statements about banning Muslims. But looming above all of our
worries about ISIS is the menace of a nuclear Iran. Obama may wish to ignore
their violations just as he’d rather talk about Islamophobia rather than his
refusal to rethink a failed anti-terror strategy that is dependent on the
goodwill and cooperation of the terrorist regime in Tehran. But sooner or later,
a reckoning will have to be made of the mess that this administration will
bequeath to the nation abroad. When it happens, we will look back on this fall
and understand that a refusal to enforce the already weak nuclear deal set in
motion a series of events that can only end in tragedy.