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Ratcheting up the pressure on Iran is the right strategy

Iran’s burgeoning belligerence in the Middle East makes it imperative that the U.S. refresh the U.N. arms embargo—as well as other pressures—even if we have to go it alone.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel meeting with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations on Sept. 24, 2019. Credit: Office of the Iranian President.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel meeting with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani at the United Nations on Sept. 24, 2019. Credit: Office of the Iranian President.
James Sinkinson
James Sinkinson
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.

The United States just announced that it will work to renew a 13-year-old arms embargo against Iran—set to expire this October—in the U.N. Security Council. But if the Security Council fails to renew the embargo, the United States will work independently to keep it in place.

Given the often cozy relationship between the Islamic Republic and permanent Security Council members China and Russia, it’s likely that one or both will veto renewal of the U.N. resolution. However, Iran’s burgeoning belligerence in the Middle East makes it imperative that the United States refresh the arms embargo—as well as other pressures—even if we have to go it alone.

A short review of recent U.S.-Iran relations should convince you this is the right strategy.

When President Obama agreed to the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, he hoped it would ideally “strengthen the hand of those more moderate forces inside of Iran.” In addition to the president, many pundits and politicians actually believed this would happen.

Obama envisioned that “we would see a situation in which Iran, seeing sanctions reduced, would start focusing on its economy, on training its people, on reentering the world community, [on] lessening its provocative activities in the region.”

Today, virtually no one—Democrat or Republican—believes since the Iran deal was adopted that Iran has become one iota more moderate.

Has Iran reduced in any way its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, seize more power in Lebanon, Iraq, Gaza, Syria and Yemen, or to threaten Israel?

If anything, Iran has increased its meddling in the internal politics of, and military operations in, a wide range of countries, mostly led by IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated by the U.S. in Iraq in January:

• Iran has continued to develop long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons—in blatant violation of a 2015 UNSC resolution.

• In Yemen, Iran funds and supplies the Houthi rebels seeking to overthrow the U.S.-backed Yemeni government. Just last year the Houthis claimed responsibility for launching sophisticated missile attacks against major Saudi Arabian oil refineries—a feat only possible if Iran supplied those missiles to the rebels.

• In Gaza, Iran continues to support Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine—all terrorist organizations, all enemies of Israel.

• Iran supports a range of Shi’ite militias in Iraq, which strongarm Iraq’s government into cooperating with Iran—always contrary to U.S. interests in the country.

• Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group is largely funded and managed by Iran. Hezbollah maintains a standing army of 40,000 fighters in Lebanon (violating another UNSC resolution) and is active in militarizing both Lebanese and Syrian borders with Israel.

• Iran is also a major ally of Syria’s Assad government and uses this relationship to import freely a range of military equipment to within a few miles of Israel—forcing the Jewish state to continually conduct defensive bombing raids against these Iranian military facilities.

• Iran naval boats have frequently harassed U.S. Navy vessels as well as commercial ships in the Persian Gulf over the past year.

In short, there is zero evidence that the Iran nuclear deal has had a moderating effect on Iran’s mullah-ruled government. To the contrary, Iran behaves as aggressively as ever and continues to seize every opportunity to increase its imperialist grip on the Middle East.

Every indication is that an end to the U.N. arms embargo in October will only encourage Iran’s dangerous behavior.

Indeed, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani confirms that negotiating a sunset clause for the U.N. arms embargo back in 2007 was a “huge political success.” In case we have any doubts about why Rouhani likes this expiration date, just six months ago he confirmed that “when the embargo … is lifted next year, we can easily buy and sell weapons.”

Good news: Nearly 90 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives—387 of 435 members—earlier this month called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to work with our allies to extend the U.N. arms embargo on Iran, which also includes travel restrictions on Iranians involved in the arms business.

Since Iran is unlikely to change its Middle East strategy, the United States should provide leadership in tightening pressure on the Islamic Republic—not only in renewing the arms embargo, but in further ratcheting up economic and diplomatic sanctions. Iran’s murderous treachery across the Middle East makes it imperative for the United States to oppose the mullahs with all available means.

James Sinkinson is President of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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