In the wake of overwhelming votes by both houses of Congress to reauthorize the Iran Sanctions Act, the Iranian regime has been vocal in its threats and bravado, but Iran upped its aggression game when Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran would start developing systems for nuclear-powered marine vessels.
According to Reuters, nuclear experts said that Rouhani’s move, if carried out, would probably require Iran to enrich uranium to a fissile purity above the maximum level set in the nuclear deal. The announcement was the first declarative statement by the regime’s leadership of an action taken in direct response to the ISA vote.
Predictably, the Obama administration downplayed the comments in the hopes of maintaining the badly flawed deal in the face of mounting criticism from the foreign policy team being assembled by incoming president Donald Trump.
“The announcement from the Iranians today does not run counter to the international agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told a news briefing.
Rouhani also ordered planning for production of fuel for nuclear-powered marine vessels “in line with the development of a peaceful nuclear program of Iran.”
But under the nuclear settlement Iran reached with the United States, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China, it is not allowed to enrich uranium above a 3.67 percent purity for 15 years, a level unlikely to be enough to run such vessels, according to Reuters.
“On the basis of international experience, were Iran to go ahead with such a (nuclear propulsion) project, it would have to increase its enrichment level,” said Mark Hibbs, nuclear expert and senior fellow at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
The threat to seek nuclear propulsion would give the Iranian regime a convenient way of circumventing the nuclear agreement and get back into the enrichment game quickly and still claim it was adhering to the deal.
It is ironic that Rouhani is citing the reauthorization of the ISA as the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back in pushing this announcement since the ISA applied largely to Iran’s ballistic missile program and its sponsorship of terror groups, as well as its nuclear program. The ISA is crucial to fulfilling the Obama administration’s promise of “snapback” sanctions should Iran be found in violation.
Also, the president maintains the authority to waive sanctions under the ISA, which Obama has done. This can only mean Rouhani and his fellow mullahs are terrified of what Trump will do when he takes office.
But one possible motivation for Rouhani may be to goad President Obama into not signing the ISA bill before the deadline expires December 31, 2016, which would ultimately prove futile since the bill easily cleared with unanimous approval—enough to override any veto—but Tehran may be hoping for a symbolic act of defiance in support of them from Obama.
Predictably, the Iran lobby led by the National Iranian American Council voiced its support for the deal and warned of dire consequences with Rouhani’s announcement as proof of impending disaster.
“For months, we warned that ISA’s renewal would have real consequences. Today, those consequences have been realized. While Iran’s move to undertake studies related to nuclear-propelled ships is not in violation of the nuclear accord, it does undermine U.S. foreign policy objectives,” the NIAC statement said. “Iran is signaling that for every negative U.S. action, there will be an Iranian reaction anathema to U.S. interests.”
The NIAC statement is the height of absurdity because the logic to it is akin to having a police officer catch a burglar, only to have the thief produce a weapon and threaten the officer and the officer is held to blame for the escalation.
Iran has already received several waivers and exemptions for violating terms of the nuclear agreement and yet when Congress reauthorizes a bill that the Obama administration has already said does not violate the nuclear agreement, the Iranian regime’s first thought is to threat the U.S.
It is a reaction that is a perfect reflection of why the nuclear deal was doomed from the start and why the Iran lobby cannot be trusted in advancing it.
Instead of urging Iran to reach out diplomatically to the incoming Trump administration, the NIAC has from the beginning sought to characterize Trump as a war monger, Muslim hater, insane person and intellectual idiot. These are not the kinds of comments that would engender a positive reaction from the new president.
While the NIAC has gone all in on supporting Iran, even in the face of outrageous statements, it delegitimizes its stated role as an advocate for Iranian-American interests. How can Iranian-Americans be helped by an organization that does not urge Iran to refrain from making outlandish and dangerous threats?