National Security & Defense

Iran and Obama’s Ballistic Delusion

(Getty Images)

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

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

The Sinking Collusion Ship

The entire Trump-Russia collusion narrative was always implausible. One, the Washington swamp of fixers such as Paul Manafort and John and Tony Podesta was mostly bipartisan and predated Trump. Two, the Trump administration’s Russia policies were far tougher on Vladimir Putin than were those of Barack ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Problem with Certainty

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Including those of you having this read to you while you white-knuckle the steering wheel trying to get to wherever you’re going for the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Worst Cover-Up of All Time

President Donald Trump may be guilty of many things, but a cover-up in the Mueller probe isn’t one of them. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, attempting to appease forces in the Democratic party eager for impeachment, is accusing him of one, with all the familiar Watergate connotations. The charge is strange, ... Read More

Theresa May: A Political Obituary

On Friday, Theresa May, perhaps the worst Conservative prime minister in recent history, announced her resignation outside of number 10 Downing Street. She will step down effective June 7. “I have done my best,” she insisted. “I have done everything I can. . . . I believe it was right to persevere even ... Read More
PC Culture

TV Before PC

Affixing one’s glance to the rear-view mirror is usually as ill-advised as staring at one’s own reflection. Still, what a delight it was on Wednesday to see a fresh rendition of “Those Were the Days,” from All in the Family, a show I haven’t watched for nearly 40 years. This time it was Woody Harrelson ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Democrats’ Other Class War

There is a class war going on inside the Democratic party. Consider these two cris de couer: Writing in the New York Times under the headline “America’s Cities Are Unlivable — Blame Wealthy Liberals,” Farhad Manjoo argues that rich progressives have, through their political domination of cities such as ... Read More

The Deepfake of Nancy Pelosi

You’ve almost made it to a three-day weekend! Making the click-through worthwhile: A quick note about how National Review needs your help, concerns about “deepfakes” of Nancy Pelosi, one of the most cringe-inducing radio interviews of all time, some news about where to find me and the book in the near ... Read More

America’s Best Defense Against Socialism

The United States of America has flummoxed socialists since the nineteenth century. Marx himself couldn’t quite understand why the most advanced economy in the world stubbornly refused to transition to socialism. Marxist theory predicts the immiseration of the proletariat and subsequent revolution from below. ... Read More