With a new ferocity, the last few days have once again made clear that Iran’s revolutionary aggression knows no bounds. Whether in familiar Middle Eastern haunts such as Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, or halfway across the globe in Argentina, Tehran pursues its interests with a cold-eyed, singular zeal. And the bill of particulars for January is long.
Argentine special prosecutor Alberto Nisman was found dead on Sunday, January 18, with a bullet in his head. He was slated to deliver evidence revealing a government cover-up of Iran’s role in the worst terrorist attack in Argentina’s history — the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires.
Nisman methodically collected evidence proving that a joint Hezbollah/Iran operation murdered 85 people. “Alberto Nisman was the 86th victim of the AMIA bombing,” said Leah Soibel, who was born in Argentina and directs Fuente Latina, an Israeli NGO. Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner said last Thursday that Nisman’s death was not a suicide.
Two days after Nisman’s death, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized Yemen’s presidential palace. That’s the same Yemen that President Barack Obama famously considers to be a paradigm of effective U.S. counter-terrorism strategy in the Middle East.
And Iranian military personnel continue their long-standing presence in Lebanon and Syria. The same day Nisman was found dead, Israel administered a precision strike in rebel-held Quneitra, Syria, knocking out an Iranian general and Hezbollah operatives who they believed to be planning attacks on the Jewish state.
On the nuclear front, Tehran recently announced the construction of two new light-water reactors. The U.S. State Department says that the construction of the reactors does not violate the Joint Plan of Action agreed upon in late 2013, whereby Iran is supposed to accept limits on its illicit nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. But it’s impossible to know whether this is true, because the Obama administration still refuses to release the full text of the agreement.
On Wednesday, the U.S. furnished Iran with $490 million in economic relief, another of the installments which constitute America’s side of the bargain. Iran will have received $11.9 billion in relief by the time the latest round of extended talks expires in June.
Back in January 2014, when Obama gave his fifth State of the Union address, he promised that he’d “be the first to call for more sanctions” if an agreement is not reached with Iran’s regime. Last Tuesday, however, he abandoned his promise, pledging to veto any bipartisan, time-limited sanctions in his sixth State of the Union. The congressional sanctions being drafted would only be triggered if an agreement is not reached by the June deadline, so Obama’s veto threat effectively immunizes the talks from any consequences that might result if they break down.
While the president makes more and more concessions to Iran, the Islamic Republic continues to pursue a violent, aggressive foreign policy with the same goal it’s always had: a destabilized world order.
Obama is wedded to the notion that the Iranian threat can be neutralized, if the regime is only offered enough carrots. The events of this month suggest he should be reaching for a very big stick instead.
— Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter @BenWeinthal