National Security & Defense

Iran Tries Again

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani (Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters)
One year into the Iran deal, the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions remain undeterred.

The world has lost one of its great voices of moral clarity. On Saturday, July 1, Elie Wiesel died at age 87. As a teenager, he experienced the horrors of first Auschwitz and then Buchenwald, witnessing first-hand the extermination of his family. He committed his life to preserving the memory of the Holocaust so that he might prevent such an atrocity from happening again.

Elie’s advocacy for victims of genocide ranged from Darfur to Cambodia, but his natural focus was on threats to the Jewish people. In recent years, he became particularly concerned about the potentially existential danger the Islamic Republic of Iran poses to the state of Israel.

Following the 1979 revolution, Iranian leaders have made no secret of their antipathy toward the Jewish state. While the United States may be the “Great Satan,” Israel is always close behind as the “Little Satan.” And with Jerusalem only about 1,300 miles from Tehran, Israel is an easier target than America.

All of which made Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons of acute concern to Elie. Having been a target in Hitler’s attempt to eradicate the Jews, he was not inclined to brush off the danger as something of a bygone era that could not happen in our more enlightened age. He was tireless in speaking out against Iran’s attempts to carry out their genocidal threats against Israel. For Elie, a reasonable approach to a nuclear deal with the Iranian regime would begin with Iran dismantling its nuclear infrastructure and renouncing its policy of destroying Israel. Only then, he believed, could we reach a true and binding agreement that would prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons.

During 2015, there were 141 registered attempts by Iran to procure technology used for the development of nuclear weapons and launchers.

Elie’s efforts were to no avail, and one year ago, the United Nations Security Council ratified the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran and imposed it on the world. The individual legislatures of the parties involved (the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, and the European Union) were not consulted — although the Iranian parliament did get a vote. So, from the American perspective at least, the JCPOA has lurched into effect — unsigned, unratified and so, in fact, illegal. Its supporters insist that the deal is the only way to avoid war, and they assure the world that it will stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, at least for a while. In their telling, it’s the only thing standing between Israel and mortal danger.

The deal’s opponents, on the other hand, believe that the JCPOA will be only another chapter in Iran’s long history of cheating on such agreements: Enriched by the deal and emboldened by their engagement with the international community, the mullahs will accelerate their nuclear ambitions, enhancing their ability to make good on their threats against Israel.

#share#Now we are one year into the JCPOA. As many commentators have noted, the Iranian leadership’s general behavior — including ballistic-missile tests, capturing and humiliating American servicemen and women, the continuing detention of American service men and women, and the ongoing genocidal rhetoric against the United States and Israel — remains unchanged. But of course the JCPOA deliberately did not cover any of these issues. So what of their nuclear program, which it was ostensibly designed to address?

The news this week has not been encouraging:

‐A German Domestic Intelligence report documents Iran’s attempts to procure illicit nuclear technology in Germany. During 2015, there were 141 registered attempts to procure technology used for the development of nuclear weapons and launchers.

‐The Institute for Science and International Security reported Iran’s attempt to procure tons of carbon fiber from German companies. Carbon fiber is classified as a nuclear dual-use good by the Nuclear Suppliers Group.  

Fortunately, these efforts to procure nuclear-related supplies were rejected by the suppliers and the German government, and so have been dismissed by the State Department on the grounds that “we have no information to indicate Iran has procured any materials in violation of the JCPOA.”

But the problem here is not Iran’s failure to procure banned materials; it is their ongoing attempts to do so, apparently undeterred by the JCPOA. We have, of course, no visibility into any possible dealings with known proliferators such as Pakistan and North Korea. After hundreds of attempts to procure these materials in Germany, why would they would not turn to a lower-quality but more agreeable trading partner?

#related#One final, disturbing data point. In December 2015, the IAEA reported the discovery of two man-made particles of uranium at the Parchin facility, and at the end of June, the Obama administration concluded that they were probably tied to Iran’s past attempts to acquire nuclear weapons. But the White House has insisted that these attempts ended in 2003 and that, in any event, “they can’t do it again” — presumably because of the JCPOA. The recent revelations by German intelligence, however, strongly indicate that the Iranians didn’t get that memo and are indeed trying to do it again. Rather than stopping them, the JCPOA is serving as a fig leaf.

Elie Wiesel took out a full-page ad in the New York Times in 2013 declaring that Iran should not be allowed to remain nuclear. In it, he noted, “history has taught us to trust the threats of our enemies more than the promises of our friends.” Sadly, Israel and then the United States may be poised to relearn this hard lesson unless we heed Elie’s wisdom and renounce the JCPOA.

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