As the sun sets on the Obama administration and its flawed policy of appeasing the Iranian regime, the Iran lobby is working in overdrive to do anything and everything it can to preserve the few wins it managed to snag over the past eight years; most notably the Iran nuclear deal.
Trita Parsi, the head of the National Iranian American Council, has been trying to insert himself into any Iranian-related news story he can find; most recently the death of Hashem Rafsanjani. He has also weighed in president-elect Donald Trump’s potential scrapping of the nuclear agreement, banking restrictions on Iranians in the U.S., the Boeing deal and if he could manage it discussing the potential of Iranian films in the Oscar race this year.
For Parsi and the rest of the Iran lobby, the biggest potential disaster looming is the possible revocation or alteration of the nuclear agreement once the Trump administration takes office next week. Parsi and the mullahs in Tehran seem resigned to the fact that Trump will almost certainly act on his campaign promise to trash or redo it.
“The deal is in tremendous danger,” Parsi said in the Washington Post. “Iranians are building a case to make sure that once the deal falls apart they can point to a strong record of the U.S. causing it. It’s going to be part of the cost the administration will have to decide if it’s willing to pay.”
Parsi is already trying to frame the debate as the fault of the U.S. knowing that Tehran’s free ride is coming to an end. Similarly, the jockeying for rhetorical position illustrates the key flaw in the nuclear agreement in the first place which was that it did not address the motivations of the Iranian regime in supporting terrorism, oppressive human rights abuses or proxy wars.
Without correcting the underlying behavior of the mullahs, the agreement was doomed from the start, something the Trump team has already publicly acknowledged.
“There’s a recognition in the incoming team that the regime cheats incrementally, not egregiously, even though the sum total of cheating turns out to be egregious,” said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a prominent critic of the agreement. “Trump should show a zero-tolerance policy to cheating. Which means, at a minimum, using U.S. sanctions to respond. At a maximum, it means building up a case there’s a history of incremental violations, and move to snap back sanctions.”
For the Iranian regime though the deal has served its purposes. It has enabled the regime to:
- Replenish its coffers with over $100 billion in badly needed cash that was redirected to support the Assad regime in Syria on the brink of collapse and pay for Hezbollah fighters and Afghan mercenaries to fight a holding action there until Russia was dragged into the conflict by Iran;
- Allowed the regime to burnish the public image of “moderates” winning in Iran when in fact there are virtually no real moderates left in Tehran, only various factions differentiated only by their fight for control of state industries and their piece of the trough of cash, kickbacks and skimmed funds; and
- Support the renewal of sectarian wars in Iraq and Yemen aimed at building a Shiite sphere of influence there Iraqi Shiite militias and Houthi rebels through the purchase and shipping of massive quantities of guns, ammunition, rockets, mortars and missiles.
The mullahs in Tehran are not stupid. They saw the gravy train coming to an end and have worked to gain as much advantage as they can to jump start a nuclear program that never really stopped as Jennifer Rubin points out in the Washington Post.
We saw just how lopsided the U.S.-Iran relationship has become. “The 2015 nuclear deal obligated Iran to keep no more than 130 metric tons of heavy water, a material used in the production of weapons-grade plutonium,” explains Iran analyst Omri Ceren. “But the Iranians have continued to produce heavy water, and they exceeded the cap in February and November. The violations [are] functionally blackmailing the Obama administration: Either someone would purchase the excess heavy water, allowing Iran to literally profit from violating the deal, or the Iranians would go into formal noncompliance, endangering the deal,” she writes.
Now the Associated Press has reported:
“Iran is to receive a huge shipment of natural uranium from Russia to compensate it for exporting tons of reactor coolant, diplomats say, in a move approved by the outgoing U.S. administration and other governments seeking to keep Tehran committed to a landmark nuclear pact.
“Two senior diplomats said the transfer recently approved by the U.S. and five other world powers that negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran foresees delivery of 116 metric tons (nearly 130 tons) of natural uranium.”
Rather than police the deal to ensure compliance, the Obama administration is assisting Iran in violating the JCPOA. Ceren remarks, “That’s enough for more than 10 nuclear bombs.” We both allow the Iranians to exceed the heavy-water limits in the deal — and then richly compensate them with uranium that can be used for bombs. Our allies would be excused for thinking we are now promoting Iran’s interests, not the West’s,” Rubin adds.
She also noted that Reuters reported, “Iranian lawmakers approved plans on Monday to expand military spending to five percent of the budget, including developing the country’s long-range missile program which U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to halt. The vote is a boost to Iran’s military establishment –– the regular army, the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and defense ministry — which was allocated almost 2 percent of the 2015-16 budget.” This, of course, refutes the notion peddled by Iran and echoed by the administration that the deal would empower “moderates” and without the deal “hard-liners” would get the upper hand. It seems that the deal has empowered the hard-liners (the IRGC), just as critics of the deal anticipated.
So while Parsi spins away like an Olympic cyclist, the reality of how to confront a double-talking Iranian regime will soon face the Trump team.