Berlin – The sheer scale of Iran’s violations of the Joint Plan of Action to slow down its illicit nuclear-weapons program should ring alarm bells in the White House. Veteran United Nations correspondent Colum Lynch’s bombshell report this week that Iran engaged in “an increase in procurement on behalf of the IR-40 Heavy Water Research Reactor at Arak” is the latest signal of Tehran’s lack of good faith.
In a parallel to Iran’s weapons-grade uranium-enrichment process, the Arak plant allows it to secure a plutonium path to building nuclear weapons. Secretary of State John Kerry’s assurance that “Iran has held up its end of the bargain” appears not to have a leg to stand on.
In an overlooked article in the German media last month, the president of that nation’s Federal Customs Service’s investigative unit (ZKA) Norbert Drude said, “We continue to observe [Iranian] criminal nuclear proliferation activity.” In 2012 and 2013, more than two-thirds of the service’s 264 investigations concerned the Islamic Republic, Drude said, adding that he anticipates that the numbers will be similar for 2014.
The ZKA noted that Iran’s deceptive business practices allow it to buy sanctioned merchandise. Disturbingly—and apparently ignored by the Obama administration—Tehran has succeeded in making such dangerous purchases in a number of cases.
Iran’s catalogue of sanction violations is not limited to its nuclear-weapons program. In March, it attempted to ship missiles to the terrorist entity Hamas in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza. The Israeli navy intercepted the shipment.
Senator Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) noted last month that extension, once again, of the interim agreement (JPOA) between the Western powers and Tehran “means that the administration will continue to block sanctions and allow the terror-sponsoring Iranian regime to make $700 million a month—roughly $23 million per day—even as Iran advances its nuclear bomb-making program.”
To paraphrase former French president Charles de Gaulle’s take on international agreements: For Iran’s regime, treaties are like roses and their time quickly passes.
As President Hassan Rouhani has openly declared: “Of course we bypass sanctions.” Enforcement, rule of law, penalty mechanisms, verification — these are tenets that Iran scorns.
Diplomacy for the sake of diplomacy with a rogue regime is futile. A veto-proof Republican majority in the U.S. Senate could override Barack Obama’s threat to nix a new round of congressional sanctions. Iran only understands the crack of the whip. Additional sanctions coupled with falling oil prices—and thus decreased oil revenue—might, just might, force Iran to make significant and verifiable concessions.
— Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter@BenWeinthal.