Earlier in May 2019, the White House announced
it was sending an aircraft carrier strike group of B-52 bombers, Patriot antimissile systems, and the amphibious assault ship USS Arlington to the Middle East. There were “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” emanating from Iran.
On May 14, Saudi Arabia said armed drones had struck two oil pumping stations in the Kingdom two days after Saudi and other oil tankers were sabotaged off the coast of the United Arab Emirates. Both countries considered Iran as responsible for the terrorist acts.
On May 15, the State Department ordered all “non-emergency U.S. government employees” to leave Iraq amid soaring tensions with Iran, which backs a network of proxies there.
On May 8, 2018, President Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran Nuclear Deal, in part because it failed to deal with the threat of Tehran’s missile program and provide a strong enough mechanism for verification.
On July 14, 2015, Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States formed a political commitment with Iran in Geneva. The fourth anniversary of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, a.k.a., the Iran Deal, is coming up on July 14, 2019 — a good opportunity to reflect on its economic, nuclear, and regional implications.
Economics and Ballistic Missiles
The Iran Deal maintained Tehran’s nuclear infrastructure, did not consider Possible Military Dimensions (PMD), and hold Tehran accountable for nuclear violations. Moreover, the Deal downplayed Iran’s economic windfall from sanctions relief, ignored the Deal's negative regional implications for state sponsorship of terrorism. Hence, Trump planned and did withdraw from the commitment.
The third paragraph of Annex B of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015) calls upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology. Tehran has been trying to exploit any loopholes in the Resolution’s language. Iran claimed it has no nuclear weapons program, and was free to have ballistic missiles.
The Obama administration failed to hold Tehran accountable for nuclear violations. In selling the nuclear deal, the administration expressed a hope and expectation that Tehran would moderate its participation in terrorism. To the contrary, Iran stepped up terrorism in Europe and the United States over the past two years, as shown in a new well-documented book, "Iran’s Emissaries of terror," released by the National Council of Resistance of Iran in May 2019.
The Way Forward for President Trump
Past experience shows that Tehran only understands the language of firmness and decisiveness. Thus, it is wise for the United States to consider the following steps.
First, step up pressure on the Iranian regime, by imposing new sanctions, i.e., the petrochemical and gas industry. The U.S. Treasury might also designate the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and begin prosecuting U.S. persons who have been providing material support to MOIS and IRGC, which was designated as a FTO.
Second, make Tehran pay the price for its nearly four decades of terrorism that has taken lives of thousand of Americans, including over 600 servicemen who fell victim to arms built in Iran and shipped across the border to target Americans in Iraq.
Tehran’s ongoing plots against American interests as well as against the free flow of oil must not go unanswered. No more violence on the part of the Iranian regime and its proxies should be required to illicit a strong American response.
Third, the U.S. must pay attention to developments inside Iran: The Iranian people and the organized opposition are constantly challenging the weakened regime.
Over the past few weeks in May, the Intelligence Minister announced the arrest of 116 teams of the main organized opposition movement, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). The teams are actively involved in organizing protests in Iran. And as the regime gets weaker from international pressure and continued popular protests, the prospects for change by the Iranian people increases.
Only a free, secular, and democratic Iran devoid of nuclear weapons can ensure an end to the Iranian threat and accelerate the long overdue process of peace and stability in the Middle East.
Prof. Raymond Tanter (@AmericanCHR) served as a senior member on the Middle East Desk of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration, Personal Representative of the Secretary of Defense to international security and arms control talks in Europe, and is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan. Tanter is on the comprehensive list of conservative writers and columnists who appear in The Wall Street Journal, Townhall.com, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Human Events, The American Spectator, and now in questsin. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.