Iran Tests Limits of Nuclear Deal
In the wake of new sanctions imposed by Washington on Iran’s ballistic missile program, the Islamic Republic has falsely claimed that the United States is in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal.
However, this claim blatantly contradicted assurances given by Obama administration officials who advocated on behalf of the accord, including former Secretary of State John Kerry, who told a Senate hearing in July 2015 that the nuclear deal “does not mean that we are precluded from sanctioning Iranian actors, sectors, as any actions or circumstances warrant.” He added:
All of our other sanctions authorities remain in place, they are unaffected by this agreement, and Iran only said, if you read what it says, that they would treat the imposition of new nuclear-related sanctions as the grounds to cease performing. But they are clear and we are clear that we have all other kinds of authorities … Even with the lifting of sanctions after eight years on missiles or five year on arms … It’s only the UN sanctions. We still have sanctions. Our primary embargo is still in place. We are still sanctioning them.
Similarly, the Obama White House explained that the nuclear deal would not prevent Washington from countering Iran’s missile program:
… we have strong multilateral and unilateral tools, including sanctions, to continue to restrict Iranian conventional arms and missile-related transfers. We have strong support from the international community on these issues.
That combined with the size of the U.S. economy, the power of our financial system, and the reach of U.S. unilateral measures gives us enormous leverage to work with other countries to enforce restrictions on Iranian missile and arms activity.
United Nations Security Council resolution 2231, which codified the nuclear deal, called on Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches.”
According to the Corker-Cardin bill, which passed in May 2015, the president must certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal and “any related agreements” every 90 days. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert stated last week that the U.S. considered Iran’s ballistic missile launches to be “a violation of UNSCR 2231.”
The United Kingdom, France, and Germany—all parties to the nuclear accord—joined the U.S. this week in calling Iran’s latest missile launch a violation of resolution 2231 in a letter addressed to UN Secretary General António Guterres.
Despite this, proponents of the deal are insisting that the U.S. will stand alone if it holds Iran to account for breaching the nuclear deal.
In addition to continuing its ballistic missile program in defiance of resolution 2231, Iran has also increased its arms shipments to Houthi rebels in Yemen, violating provisions in the resolution against exporting arms, Reuters reported this week. This illicit activity would give the Trump administration even more grounds to decertify the nuclear deal with Iran.
Despite these violations, Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden, wrote this week in The Washington Post that the deal is working and that Europe “is convinced that engagement, rather than confrontation and conflict, will go a longer way toward getting Iran to change its behavior.”
Overlooking the overwhelming evidence that engaging with Iran over the past four years has not improved its behavior, Bildt’s argument was built on a false premise.
“As U.S intelligence agencies have repeatedly confirmed, Iran ended the military dimension of its nuclear program in 2003,” Bildt wrote.
However, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced in December 2015 that Iran was actively designing a nuclear weapon until 2009. While the agency could not confirm that Iran stopped this work after 2009, it did not find conclusive proof otherwise. Rather than continuing to investigate the matter, the IAEA’s probe was shut down in order to enable the implementation of the nuclear deal.
What Bildt’s false assertion underscores is that there’s still a lot we don’t know about Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program, and that what currently passes for compliance sometimes means turning a blind eye.
The Truth Behind BDS
Critics of the Anti-Israel Boycott Act currently being debated in the U.S. Senate, most notably the American Civil Liberties Union, claim that the pending legislation would impinge on the right to free speech.
However, Northwestern University law professor Eugene Kontorovich explained this week that the bipartisan bill, introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D – Md.) and co-sponsored by over 40 of his colleagues, targets anti-Israel discrimination—not speech.
Cardin’s legislation specifically expands current U.S. laws adopted in the 1970s to counteract the Arab League boycott of Israel, which forbid American companies from engaging in unsanctioned boycotts at the behest of foreign countries. The existing measures help prevent U.S. companies from being used to advance the policies of foreign governments that undermine U.S. policy.
The Anti-Israel Boycott Act simply extends the 1970s legislation by prohibiting American companies from abiding by unsanctioned boycotts organized by “international governmental organizations,” not just foreign countries. The language is meant to address boycott efforts being organized by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
Contrary to the ACLU’s tenuous claims, the legislation being considered in the Senate does not prevent individuals or companies from engaging in boycotts of Israel of their own accord, or from making declarations of support for such boycotts. As Cardin and Sen. Rob Portman (R – Ohio) explained in an open letter to the ACLU, the bill “is narrowly targeted at commercial activity and is based on current law that has been constitutionally upheld.”
Kontorovich pointed out that no individual has ever been jailed on account of the existing legislation, nor has any defense claimed that the existing law is unconstitutional.
The Anti-Israel Boycott Act does, however, prevent international governmental bodies from using American companies as pawns in their selective attacks on Israel. No other nation in the world, Kontorovich observed, is subject to such opprobrium by the UNHRC. The hypocrisy is even more pronounced as two of the nations that voted to initiate a boycott of Israel, Turkey and Morocco, respectively occupy Northern Cyprus and Western Sahara. Yet there is no movement to penalize those two countries, nor any that the international community designates as an occupying power, with one consistent exception.
In related news, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed legislation last week prohibiting his state from contracting with entities that engage in discriminatory boycotts of Israel. North Carolina does an estimated $140 million worth of business with Israel every year.
Another Week, Another Hezbollah Threat
BuzzFeed published an article this week documenting Iran’s efforts to assemble a multinational Shiite army in order to project its power and influence across the Middle East.
Perhaps no element of that army is as essential to Iran’s ultimate plans as its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah, which has been described as “the tip of Iran’s imperial spear.”
According to one Hezbollah commander interviewed by Buzzfeed, those plans include fighting Israel “in the Galilee someday soon.”
This declaration is, of course, consistent with the threats that regularly emanate from Tehran against the Jewish state.
Although Iran masks its enmity for Israel by claiming that it stands up for the rights of Palestinians, it cares little for the independence of others.
Correspondents for The Washington Post who were recently taken on a tour of northeastern Lebanon, from which Hezbollah recently drove out Syrian Sunni jihadists, observed that “nowhere was there any evidence of the Lebanese state.”
Already in 2013, The Wall Street Journal quoted a rebel commander in Syria calling Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani the main political force in the country.
Last month, the head of the U.S. National Counterterrorism Center said that Hezbollah has the capacity to use its resources “against the United States, including here in the homeland.” Members of the Persian community in Los Angeles recently reported seeing fliers by a group called the Army of Hezbollah in America, which threatened terror if the U.S. did not withdraw from the Persian Gulf.
Though widely hailed as a “reformer” or “moderate” when he was elected four years ago, Iranian President Hassan Rouhan begins his second term while presiding over “a modern day dystopia,” Julie Lenarz wrote in The Tower this week.
“Rather than taking steps to address the abysmal human rights situation in the country, conditions have steadily deteriorated for peaceful activists under the Rouhani presidency,” Lenarz wrote, citing an Amnesty International report released this week.
Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s research and advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa, criticized Western nations for their response to Iranian human rights abuses, saying, “instead of appeasing Iranian officials, the EU should forcefully call for the immediate and unconditional release of all those jailed for their peaceful human rights activism.”
Lenarz added that the Amnesty report “should not come as a shock to anyone who has paid attention to the situation in Iran since Rouhani’s rise to power and sees Iran for what it really is: a notorious pariah state that mercilessly treats the Iranian people as its private property and exports death and destruction far beyond its national borders.”
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Three Big Questions
When CNN’s Jake Tapper asked why the Women’s March organizers would celebrate convicted cop-killer Assata Shakur, co-organizer Linda Sarsour dismissed him as a member of the “alt-right.” Likewise, when Bari Weiss, a staff editor at The New York Times, warned that the progressive Left would be hurt by those Women’s March organizers who embraced hate, co-organizer Bob Bland claimed that Weiss was “endorsing a sensational alt-right attack that aims to discredit the Women’s March movement.” Do the organizers of the Women’s March have a defense for embracing individuals who hate and kill, or are they only capable of calling their critics “alt-right?”
With the passage of the Taylor Force Act by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week, which would penalize the Palestinian Authority for incentivizing terrorism, are we any closer to the time when the PA stops rewarding murderers?
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has continued harassing U.S. Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf. At what point will it go too far and provoke a military response?
[Photo: Mehr News]