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May 20, 2020 6:39 am

Don’t Let Up the Pressure on Iran

avatar by James Sinkinson / JNS.org

Opinion

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks during a meeting, as the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Tehran, Iran, April 5, 2020. Photo: Official Presidential website/Handout via REUTERS.

JNS.orgThe 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 UN Security Council (UNSC).

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 any renewal of the UN 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 US-Iran relations should convince anyone that 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 that Iran has become one iota more moderate. Has Iran reduced in any way its efforts to develop major weapons, seize more power in Lebanon, Iraq, Gaza, Syria, and Yemen, or 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 late IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated by the US 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 US-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 Shiite militias in Iraq, which strong-arm Iraq’s government into cooperating with Iran — always contrary to US 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 the Lebanese and Syrian borders with Israel.
  • Iran is also a major ally of Syria’s Assad government and uses this relationship to import a range of military equipment to within a few miles of Israel — forcing the Jewish state to continually conduct defensive bombing raids in response.
  • Iranian naval boats have frequently harassed US 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 UN 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 UN 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% of the US 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 UN 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 with the United States.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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