National Security & Defense

Iran Thumbs Its Nose at America and Obama Does Nothing

(Alex Wong/Getty)

Last week, the White House hailed Iran for shipping most of its low-enriched uranium stockpile to Russia. Secretary of State John Kerry called it “one of the most significant steps Iran has taken” under the nuclear deal signed this past summer. But the real news happened several days earlier: Even as the administration heaped praise on the mullahs in Tehran, Iranian Revolutionary Guard ships fired unguided rockets near a U.S. aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz.

This provocation is just the latest in a series of dangerous acts committed by Iran that belie President Obama’s rosy promises of putting pressure on Iran for its aggressive actions. As the so-called “Implementation Day” of Obama’s flawed agreement approaches — and the president prepares to give the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief — it’s important to take stock of Iran’s behavior so far.

Among other things, the deal has greatly harmed relations between the United States and its traditional allies in the Middle East, Israel first and foremost. It has also emboldened Iran, which will receive important financial assistance to fund its regional aggression in places like Yemen, Bahrain, Lebanon, and Syria. In recent days, Iran even allowed the Saudi embassy in Tehran to be ransacked, leading Saudi Arabia to rightfully sever diplomatic relations with Iran.

This damage, extensive as it already is, is growing worse by the day. Since the deal was signed this summer, Iran has made its intentions clear. The head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Qassem Suleimani, visited Russia — despite a U.N. travel ban restricting his movements — to coordinate a joint Iranian-Russian intervention in Syria. Iran sentenced Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian to prison for espionage, even as it has arrested a growing number of Americans. And it has engaged in a brutal human-rights crackdown, arresting hundreds, including businesspeople and journalists.

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Meanwhile, Iran has already stretched the terms of Obama’s deal. Iran is now trying to claim that a U.S. law aimed at protecting Americans from terrorists trying to come to the United States is an American violation of the agreement. This is a blatant attempt to pressure the Obama administration not to seek or enforce any new sanctions whatsoever, even those targeting human-rights abuses and support for terrorism, which are allowed under the deal. It has twice tested ballistic missiles — violating a U.N. Security Council resolution. On December 31 the supposed moderate Iranian president Hassan Rouhani even stated that Iran would be expanding its ballistic missile program. This comes just weeks after the Obama administration joined with its diplomatic partners to sweep Iran’s past illicit nuclear-weapons activities under the rug.

The administration’s reversal of position on this key issue set a terrible precedent for the nuclear agreement. The United States has willingly conceded the crucial baseline it needs to guard against any future move toward Iranian weaponization. America’s enemies will also take heart: They now have a model for obfuscating their illicit activities with no repercussions.

#share#President Obama’s rollover on Iran’s past attempts to create a nuclear weapon is part of a disturbing pattern. The White House is reportedly delaying planned sanctions against Iran’s ballistic-missile program; has done nothing to punish Suleimani’s illegal travel to Russia; failed to secure the release of imprisoned Americans; and remained quiet about Iran’s flagrant human-rights violations and its aggressive actions in the region. The deal hasn’t even been implemented yet, and it’s gone from relieving nuclear-weapons-related sanctions, to becoming a get-out-of-jail-free card for whatever violations of international norms and laws Tehran cares to undertake.

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The Obama administration and its supporters argue that while Iran’s actions are troubling, they technically fall outside the scope of the nuclear agreement. Since preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is the goal, they argue, the United States must separate out these issues and keep the deal moving forward. But that’s exactly why this deal is so fundamentally flawed.

The reason why an Iranian bomb is so threatening is Iran’s dangerous behavior in the Middle East and abroad. The more emboldened it feels to test its limits in these areas, the more emboldened it will be to cheat on the nuclear front again in the future — and the more our adversaries will believe that we don’t have the resolve to enforce our word.

#related#That is why as president I will scrap this fundamentally flawed deal. Instead, I will reimpose the sanctions that President Obama waives and will impose crushing new measures targeting all of Iran’s illicit behavior. Rather than cutting deals with a regime with American blood on its hands, I will pressure Iran on all fronts across the Middle East. I will increase support to our allies in the region that are on the frontline of Iran’s nefarious activities.

The mullahs will no longer have an American president to push around.

Marco Rubio is the senior U.S. senator from Florida. He is the acting chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.


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