Why I still hate the Iran deal

The divisive debate over the Iran nuclear deal, which consumed so much of our energy last year, feels like a distant memory.
March 16, 2016

The divisive debate over the Iran nuclear deal, which consumed so much of our energy last year, feels like a distant memory, but my feelings haven’t changed — I still hate the deal. For starters, all I’ve seen to date is an Iranian regime growing more evil and repressive than ever.

One of the big questions surrounding the deal was whether it would empower the evil forces inside Iran, or the moderate forces. So far, it looks like a rout for evil.

In a recent piece on Bloomberg.com titled “Obama’s Plan to Aid Moderates Failed Spectacularly,” Eli Lake outlined how, beginning in January, the regime’s Guardian Council began purging “any candidates who espoused the slightest deviation from the country’s septuagenarian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.”

In a follow-up piece titled “Iran’s Elections Are Magic,” Lake challenged the perception that the reformists beat the hardliners by showing how “thanks to the magic of Iranian politics, many of yesterday’s hardliners are today’s reformists.”

One of the many examples he cited was Kazem Jalali, “one of those hardliners whom President Obama had hoped to marginalize with the Iran nuclear deal” and who “called for sentencing to death the two leaders of the Green Movement.” Well, just like magic, Jalali ran on the list of “reformists.”

On the terror front, it doesn’t look like the invitation into the family of nations has encouraged the world’s biggest sponsor of terrorism to moderate its ways.

“The Iranian regime through the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps is building a complex terror infrastructure, including sleeper cells that are stockpiling arms, intelligence and operatives, and are ready to act on order, including in Europe and America,” Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said during a recent visit to Cyprus.

Meanwhile, flush with billions in sanctions relief and emboldened by its newfound legitimacy, Iran has been flaunting its ballistic missiles, a move U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power called “provocative and destabilizing.”

Provocative and destabilizing, perhaps, but perfectly legal. According to Emily Landau, senior research fellow at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies, “There’s nothing [in the deal] with regard to ballistic missiles, because the P5+1 conceded on that point as soon as the negotiations began.”

Also, according to Defense News, there’s nothing in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 from July 2015 that “expressly proscribes development and testing of the nuclear-capable missiles Tehran launched to much fanfare over two days last week.”

Legal or not, the launching of Iranian missiles encrypted with the phrase “Israel must be wiped off the face of the earth” serves as a sober reminder of who we’re dealing with.

For Iran’s military leadership, the annihilation of Israel is not just a slogan, it’s religion.

It’s always tempting to dismiss such threats as empty bluster from anti-Semitic bullies, but for Iran’s military leadership, the annihilation of Israel is not just a slogan, it’s religion.

Mehdi Khalaji, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and one of the leading scholars in this area, writes that militant messianism and apocalyptic ideas “have a strong following within [Iran’s] Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps” (IRGC) and that an influential group within the IRGC has “responsibility over Iran’s nuclear program.”

Even on the issue of monitoring compliance, we’re starting to smell trouble. ABC News reported that Russia and the West “are now divided on how well the U.N. atomic agency is reporting on whether Tehran is meeting its commitments. Western nations want more details, while Moscow opposes their push.”

According to Olli Heinonen, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) former deputy director, the IAEA’s first report “does not list inventories of nuclear materials and equipment or the status of key sites and facilities. Without detailed reporting, the international community cannot be sure that Iran is upholding its commitments under the nuclear deal.”

Of course, none of this is shocking. Even proponents of the deal acknowledged that the deal was “far from ideal,” but was certainly better than the alternative of going to war.

What none of us knew at the time was that the Pentagon had developed a cyber attack plan that, according to a Feb. 15 New York Times report, “was intended to assure President Barack Obama that he had alternatives to war.” The plan was Stuxnet on steroids: “Crippling Iran’s air defenses, communications systems and key parts of its electrical power grids.”

In other words, the U.S. had a whole new way to pressure the Iranians, short of war, that would have increased its leverage to get a better deal. Tragically, it never used it.

In any event, for the immediate future, we’re stuck with the mediocre deal we’ve got. I hope my pessimism is misplaced and the deal will lead to Iran never getting a nuclear weapon. I hope we’ll catch Iran if and when it cheats. I hope Iran is bluffing about annihilating Israel. I hope the deal buys us precious time to help us figure out how to contain a predatory and evil regime.

But from what I’ve seen so far, I’m not giving evil the benefit of the doubt, and I’m not getting my hopes up too high.

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

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