Ending the arms embargo on Iran in the context of a nuclear deal “may actually help create an Iranian military that puts the lives of American sailors, soldiers, and airmen at serious risk” Andrew Bowen, a senior fellow at the Center for the National Interest wrote in an analysis for The Daily Beast Monday.
Lifting the arms embargo was one of the provisions of the agreement that was announced today.
Bowen analyzed three arguments offered to justify the deal: that Iran’s spends less on its military than many of America’s Middle Eastern allies and is, therefore, not a threat to them; that the embargo on conventional arms was imposed as part of the nuclear sanctions and not significant by themselves; and that Iran needs the weapons to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He then showed how each of these arguments is flawed.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states might spend more on military hardware than Iran, but their troops are not as well-trained, so spending alone is a poor way to judge the quality of Iran’s military force. Allowing Iran to upgrade it conventional forces with Russian or Chinese arms “could be devastating for U.S. and [Gulf Cooperation Council] naval and air bases if there are further relaxations on Iran’s acquisition of missile technology.” Additionally, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has stated that he has no interest in working with the United States beyond achieving a nuclear accord, so Iran would hardly be a reliable ally in the fight against ISIS. Allowing Iran access to more and better weaponry “could empower a range of Iranian proxy forces, partners and terrorist groups,” Bowen wrote, which “could endanger U.S. personnel at regional diplomatic and military facilities.”
At the end of the article, Bowen spelled out many of the risks that lifting the arms embargo against Iran poses to the United States and its interests in the region.
The recent uncovering of the IRGC-backed plot to destabilize the monarchy in Jordan only underscores the myth that a better-equipped and wealthier Iran will somehow grow tamer with respect to regional ambitions and that IRGC is even active in places outside of Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, and Iraq. We must not forget how Tehran sought to conduct a terrorist attack in Washington, D.C. with an attempted assassination of then Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Adel Jubeir, an operation that was to have been carried out on American soil.
Increased arms flowing into Hezbollah’s hands and like-minded groups in the Palestinian territories endanger the security of Israel.” Further equipping and training of Yemen’s Houthis could position this group to threaten global trade through the Suez Canal if they are able to both establish a naval presence from the Red Sea port of Hodeida and further south at the Mandeb Strait. Increased IRGC armed shipments to the Houthis could lead to more stand-offs in the Gulf of Aden with the U.S. Navy.
Whether or not the conventional arms embargo should remain in a final nuclear deal with Iran is not a simple question of parsing U.S. Security Council Resolution language. This is a critical U.S. national security issue and therefore makes the Obama administration responsible for safeguarding it. Regardless of the Russian and Iranian interpretations of the words and spirit of the UN Resolutions and the emerging Joint Plan of Action, Washington can’t let such a debate become a distraction from enabling Iran to emerge from these negotiations as a credible conventional threat to the U.S. and its allies in the region.
In an analysis written for Al Arabiya last week, Bowen warned that the emerging nuclear deal could “create an arc of instability in the Middle East, which has long-term implications for the stability of the region, Europe, and the wider Indian Ocean, and for global energy markets.”
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