National Security & Defense

Iran and Obama’s Ballistic Delusion

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Yesterday, President Obama signed off on sanctions relief for Iran. The relief will take effect when the International Atomic Energy Agency verifies Iran has cut its enriched-uranium stocks, restructured its heavy-water facility at Arak, and dismantled its centrifuges. In a statement, the president promised that the U.S. will be ‘‘closely monitoring’’ Iranian compliance ‘‘to ensure Iran fully fulfills each and every one of its commitments.’’

But this is fiction. Recent facts on the ground — and in the air — already prove President Obama is allowing Iran to bend the deal into mush. First off, consider Iran’s ballistic-missile test on October 10. According to the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., the test breached international law and the missile was “inherently capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.” But White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest claimed Iran’s breach was ‘‘altogether separate’’ from its responsibilities under the nuclear deal. While the Obama administration says it will take Iran to task at the U.N., we can expect any action will, in true U.N. form, be deafeningly pathetic.

Still, President Obama’s casual willingness to segregate Iran’s ballistic-missile malfeasance from the nuclear deal is catastrophic. After all, the deal itself restricts Iran’s access to ballistic-missile technology for eight years. It does so because U.S. military leaders know that an advanced ballistic-missile capability would grant Iran the aorta of a weaponization program: the means to deliver nuclear weapons against adversaries thousands of miles away. Regardless, this ballistic turn of events was sadly predictable. In mid-August, I argued that ‘‘Iran will wait until it has established a ballistic-missile capability before constructing an actual nuclear weapon. . . . Iran knows that it can build a nuclear delivery platform without meaningful consequences.” Indeed, John Kerry indirectly encouraged Iran’s calculation by clarifying that ballistic-embargo breaches won’t result in a sanctions “snapback.” In that context, Iran’s missile test on October 10 wasn’t just a weapons-research test; it was a test of President Obama’s resolve. And from the hardliners’ perspective, Mr. Obama passed with flying colors.


#related#Yet the sanctions snapback issue only illuminates the deeper flaw in the Iran nuclear deal. Namely, the gaping chasm between the deal’s rhetoric and its enforcement capacities. After all, the European Union’s commitment to a sanctions snapback will self-destruct the day EU firms sign lucrative Iranian business contracts. And the idea that China and Russia will consider a “snapback”? Give me a break. But most problematic of all, the nuclear deal is blind to the realities of Middle Eastern sectarian politics. Now that Putin and Iran have combined to shred American influence in Syria and burn the U.S.’s credibility with its allies, the balance of power has shifted perceptibly to Iran. Just look at Iraq, where Iran is escalating its terrorist proxy campaign against Iraq’s government. From President Obama’s perspective, these developments are just teething problems of his bold new policy. But for the Sunni-Arab monarchies these challenges are existential. And for Iran, the opportunities offer fulfillment of Khomeini’s revolutionary agenda.

Unless President Obama cracks down on Iranian malfeasance fast, five years from now — perhaps sooner — we will remember 2015 as a year of comparative Middle Eastern stability. On this course, far, far worse is approaching on the horizon.

Tom Rogan is a writer, a panelist on The McLaughlin Group, and a fellow at the Steamboat Institute. He tweets @TomRtweets. His homepage is

Tom Rogan is a columnist for National Review Online, a contributor to the Washington Examiner, and a former panelist on The McLaughlin Group. Email him at


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