A few days ago, Britain’s Daily Telegraph revealed that in 2015 the British authorities had uncovered a Hezbollah terrorist plot. The key point was that this had been kept secret until now.
In a bomb factory on the outskirts of London, a total of three metric tons of ammonium nitrate was discovered—more than was used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people— stashed in ice packs.
This was apparently no rogue plot, but part of an international Hezbollah operation laying the groundwork for future attacks.
The London cell was uncovered by MI5 and the police in September 2015. The British were reportedly tipped off by the Mossad. The suspicion is that the British government kept the discovery secret because they were heavily committed to the Iran nuclear deal brokered by President Barack Obama, which was agreed to the following month.
That deal was a baleful development. Supposedly aiming to prevent Iran from ever developing nuclear weapons, it would actually enable it to do so a few years down the line.
Worse, by lifting sanctions it funneled millions of dollars into Iran. This enabled the regime to fund Hezbollah and global terror; expand its predatory influence in Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen and Iraq; and continue developing inter-continental ballistic missiles.
Britain has consistently and perversely maintained that the deal would stop Iran from getting the bomb. When U.S. President Donald Trump declared the deal dead and reimposed sanctions, Britain and the European Union set out to undermine this through a special-purpose vehicle called Instex, designed to allow payments to Iran that would bypass sanctions.
So while it was trying to continue funding the Iranian terror machine, the British government kept secret from the public a major threat to Western security being developed in their own country by Iran’s proxy army, Hezbollah, which the British government only got round to banning as a terrorist group in February this year.
When Israel pulled off last year’s audacious raid in stealing thousands of Iranian nuclear program files from under the regime’s nose and said these revealed Iran was far closer to getting nuclear weapons than had been thought, the British dismissed this as irrelevant. The whole reason for the Obama deal, they sniffed, was that they knew Iran had been lying. The deal, they implied, would put an end to its ability to deceive.
Last week, I attended a talk at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs given by Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director-general for safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency. He certainly did not take the British view.
He said the information in the documents obtained by Israel, along with the IAEA’s own researches, showed that Iran’s deception of the IAEA as late as 2015 had led to the “premature implementation” of the Iran deal.
There was evidence that Iran had changed its documentation to conceal its military nuclear program behind a civilian one.
The IAEA, he said, hadn’t had the facilities to question this. The deception meant that the deal had been implemented with an inadequate baseline that prevented the IAEA from monitoring future developments.
There was evidence that Iran was in breach of its undertakings under the deal. Most worrying, he told Israel’s Army Radio, “Iran is actually weaponizing uranium enrichment without making a weapon.” Iran could now make weapons-grade enriched uranium in “perhaps half a year, seven to eight months maximum, if they put everything into it.”
On Monday, the IAEA’s director-general Yukiya Amano said that Iran’s rate of uranium enrichment was increasing, and the deal was therefore was “under tension.” This was the first time since the deal was signed that the IAEA did not report that Iran was implementing its nuclear-related commitments. Now Iran is threatening to resume uranium enrichment after its self-imposed July 7 deadline.
The United States is stepping up its sanctions policy still further. It has now targeted Iran’s largest petrochemical company for providing support to the Revolutionary Guards, and is considering ways to undermine the E.U.’s Instex mechanism.
According to Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, president of the International American Council on the Middle East, sanctions are working. They have imposed such pressure on the regime that it has been forced to cut funding to its allies, militia and terror groups.
For the first time, the regime is frightened of the United States rather than the other way round. According to sources cited by Israeli TV, Iran is now making back-channel overtures to Washington expressing a willingness to renew talks in a bid to find common ground.
However, the belief that sanctions will force it to back down seems naive. It’s hard to believe that these Shi’ite fanatics, who have been in a state of self-declared war against the West since they came to power in 1979, would ever agree to abandon their development of nuclear weapons, let alone meekly cave in to Washington’s further requirement to limit their missile program and their involvement in the region’s wars.
Furthermore, according to Emanuele Ottolenghi of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Hezbollah earns millions of dollars every year from Latin American drug cartels, which supply the drugs flooding Britain and Europe.
Shockingly, in order not to derail the nuclear deal, the Obama administration terminated the eight-year operation run by the Drug Enforcement Administration aimed at combating Hezbollah’s collusion with the drug trade. The Trump administration has not yet resumed the attempt to shut off this financial spigot.
As sanctions make the regime feel increasingly cornered, it may be more inclined to use violence. Some analysts believe it won’t risk provoking Washington too far because it knows a U.S. military attack could finish it off.
So it might choose just to sit out the Trump presidency in the hope of a pliable Democrat replacing him in the White House.
The drumbeat of war, though, is increasing. The top commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East says he believes the Iranians or their proxies may orchestrate an attack at any moment.
Over the last month, the Trump administration announced that it was sending an aircraft carrier strike group and air force bombers to the Middle East, as well as Patriot missiles and additional troops, to “send a clear and unmistakable message” to Iran.
U.S. officials said that the decision was based in part on intelligence that the Iranian regime has told some of its proxy forces that they could now target American military personnel and assets.
The day after that announcement, four oil tankers were attacked in the Persian Gulf, with Iran being considered the chief suspect. On Thursday morning, two more oil tankers were damaged near the Strait of Hormuz in another suspected attack.
It’s hard to see how the Iranian regime can be stopped without some kind of military action being taken against it. Those like Britain and the European Union who believe that is unthinkable and can best be avoided by the Obama deal are wrong.
Failing to neutralize Iran will merely mean that, a few years down the road, the West will be menaced not just by Hezbollah terrorism, but by a nuclear Iranian enemy bent on the annihilation of Israel and the destruction of the West.
Melanie Phillips, a British journalist, broadcaster and author, writes a column for JNS every two weeks. Currently a columnist for “The Times of London,” her personal and political memoir, “Guardian Angel,” has been published by Bombardier, which also published her first novel, “The Legacy,” in 2018. Her work can be found on her website, www.melaniephillips.com.