Maintain The Sanctions On Iran
On Dec. 16, Secretary of State John Kerry certified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Iran is in full compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and that the "suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the agreement is appropriate ... and is vital to the national security interests of the United States."
If this delusion results in the imminent lifting of sanctions, Iran will gain immediate access to more than $100 billion; the sanctions regime will be effectively over; and the only incentive for Iran to even pretend to comply with the agreement will be gone.
Instead, President Obama should keep the sanctions in place. Consider just a few of Iran's most egregious offenses since the JCPOA was announced in July.
- In October, Iran launched a new, long-range, nuclear-warhead-capable, precision-guided ballistic missile. Even the Obama administration acknowledges that this was a clear violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. Resolutions 1929 and 2231, the latter of which is mandated by the JCPOA, both explicitly prohibit any Iranian ballistic missile testing. So chastened were the Iranians by the Obama administration's response to this flagrant violation that they launched a second illegal ballistic missile in November. These launches were, at least by extension, violations of the JCPOA itself. Clearly the Iranians are actively developing the ability to deliver nuclear weapons great distances and equally clear is their contempt for the agreement.
- Shortly after the deal was announced, the Iranian leadership demanded that the sanctions had to be permanently lifted, rather than indefinitely suspended. The JCPOA language says the United States will "cease the application of sanctions," keeping the framework intact should the sanctions need to be reapplied. The administration has insisted the enforceability of the entire agreement rests on the ability to "snapback" sanctions. Yet the Iranians insist that any snapback, of any sanctions, for any reason, will end the deal.
- In October, Iran sent weapons to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Russian cargo planes in violation of U.N. Resolution 1747. Shortly thereafter, Russia delivered to Iran the very sophisticated S-300 Air Defense System, a dangerous leap forward in Iran's air defense. Both of these developments followed Iranian Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani's visit to Moscow, itself a violation of Resolution 1747. Compliance with Resolution 1747 is implicitly required by the JCPOA.
- On Dec. 2, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its report on the previous military dimensions of Iran's nuclear research and development. The IAEA concluded that Iran had been working on nuclear weapons through at least 2009, including neutron triggers for detonation purposes and warhead miniaturization technology. The IAEA further reported that the Iranians had not fully cooperated with the inspections; had repeatedly misled investigators; and had recently sanitized important nuclear research sites, including Parchin, leaving the inspectors uncertain as to exactly how far Iranian weaponization had gone and for how long. The IAEA report confirmed that the Iranians had lied to the United States and the entire world for years, including through the duration of the JCPOA negotiations, by insisting that their nuclear research was always, entirely peaceful in nature.
- Finally, on Nov. 19, we learned how completely farcical the JCPOA is. In a letter to U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), the State Department acknowledged that Iran has not signed the JCPOA and that it is not legally binding on Iran. According to the State Department, the "JCPOA is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document. The JCPOA reflects political commitments." In addition, the Iranian parliament has refused to ratify the JCPOA, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has forbidden any further negotiations with the United States regarding the JCPOA.
It is long past time for the president to acknowledge the obvious:
Iran is in serial violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions mandated by the JCPOA itself. These violations threaten our national security interests and those of our allies. The Iranian regime has lied to U.S. and Western negotiators for years, including throughout the JCPOA negotiations, and demonstrated no softening of its hostility toward the United States. In fact, the regime continues to arrest and convict American citizens on fabricated political charges. Most importantly, there is no real agreement - no meeting of the minds and no legally binding document.
For the president to ignore more than 35 years of reality - dating back to the hostage crisis in 1979 right up to the Iranian arrogance of the past several months - and prepare to lift the sanctions is worse than foolish; it is extremely dangerous.
Iran has repeatedly abandoned its political commitments. Why should we consider its actions to be anything other than in bad faith?
We urge the president to reconsider the path he is on, before it is too late. He should not surrender to the fear of losing a so-called political legacy and must maintain the sanctions on Iran.