Is this our last chance to stop Iran without lethal force?
While we continue to waste our attention on the carnival attraction known as the impeachment hearings, protests against the mullahcracy have engulfed major cities in Iran. Rather than repeat Barack Obama’s appeasing silence in 2009, and his ignoring explicit calls for support from the beacon of liberty, we need to be bold in our support for the protestors, and even bolder in actions that will back up our words.
The precipitating event that has intensified long-running protests has been a 50% increase in fuel prices. This blow to everyday people’s budgets comes a year after President Trump withdrew the US from the Iran deal, and imposed tougher sanctions on the regime, reducing revenues from the sale of oil. But it’s the actions of the mullahs that are to blame. They took Obama’s bribes to sign the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and have squandered them on developing missiles, spinning centrifuges, and financing jihadists in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq under the noses of American troops.
For Iran, this geopolitical jihadist adventurism is nothing new. Indeed, for 40 years it has been at the heart of Iranian foreign policy. The architect of the revolution, the Ayatollah Khomeini, proclaimed, “We shall export our revolution to the whole world. Until the cry ‘There is no god but Allah’ resounds over the whole world, there will be struggle,” i.e. jihad. His successors have been true to that goal, one dismissed by our foreign policy savants who blame Israel or the sins of colonialism instead of recognizing this 14-century-long religious motive documented in Islamic law, doctrine, and long record of invasion, conquest, colonizing, slaving, raiding, and occupation. True to Khomeini’s words, for forty years the mullahs have shed the blood of Americans with impunity.
The JCPOA that opened the road to Iranian nukes has been a disaster, an appeasement whose consequences still may, if Iran obtains nuclear weapons, rival that of the French and British at the Munich conference in 1938. Trump’s withdrawal from that malign agreement was an important first step. But NATO allies like France and Germany, whom the devotees of the “rules-based international order” ritually praise, have been sluggish, if not obstructive, in participating fully in our efforts to rein in the regime.
For example, they have tried to create financial work-arounds to lessen the effectiveness of the sanctions. Just this July, our Treasury Department had to warn the Europeans to stop developing Instex, “designed to avoid using international financial institutions that could be vulnerable to U.S. sanctions. Instead, it avoids sending money to Iran by using a virtual ledger to match imports and exports. Thus, a European company wanting to import Iranian oil would pay a second European company exporting a product to Iran, such that dollars need never be sent to Tehran,” according to the Washington Examiner. Even more despicable, France has talked about giving Iran a “$15 billion line of credit to allow Iran to sell its oil abroad despite US sanctions,” the AP has reported.
And the Europeans have been tepid to their response to the revelations of Iran’s nuclear efforts, including the mullah’s recent boast that they are using 40 advanced centrifuges to create weapons-grade material ten-times more quickly than their existing centrifuges–– its third known violation of the deal. This comes after Iran’s increased enrichment to 4.5%, exceeding the 3.67% allowed by the JCPOA, and went beyond the 300-kilogram cap on low-enriched uranium, according to AP. And it has reopened its underground Fordow uranium facility, forbidden by the treaty. Along with its more advanced centrifuges, Iran has significantly lessened the amount of time needed for a nuclear breakout.
Nor have the Europeans forcefully responded to Iran’s seizing oil tankers, taking crews captive, and shooting down drones. But this feckless behavior is nothing new for our allies: The American embassy hostage crisis in 1979, when an appeal to our NATO allies for a trade embargo was met with equivocation and delay; the run-up to the second Gulf War in 2003, when European diplomats suborned the non-permanent UN Security Council members to vote down a resolution supporting the removal of Saddam Hussein; the failure of NATO countries to spend even a modest 2% of GDP on their military preparedness; and now the undermining of US efforts to prevent an apocalyptic cult from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Such actions all confirm that despite all the high-flown globalist rhetoric, multinational treaties, and transnational institutions, sovereign nations pursue their national interests first, including doing business with an international outlaw.
In all fairness, though, we haven’t done enough either to concentrate the mullah’s minds, hewing to a strategy of “maximum pressure” that presumably will bring the mullah’s to the bargaining table, or precipitate regime collapse. It’s time for that strategy to be beefed up with action. Trump needs to put Europe’s feet to the fire and make it clear that continuing to do business with Iran will mean economic sanctions will be imposed on companies that do so. He needs to end the remaining sanctions-waivers given to Chinese, Russian, and some European companies doing “work at Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant, the Fordow enrichment facility, the Arak nuclear complex and the Tehran Research Reactor.” And he should pressure the Europeans to trigger the “snap back” UN sanctions, a provision of the existing treaty to which Iran and the Europeans still belong.
More immediately, the president needs to make a strong public statement in support of the protestors, and pressure our allies to do the same. There has been bipartisan criticism of Trump for not being more aggressive in taking China to task, but military options against China are few. Iran, however, is not a superpower, and there we do have kinetic options for concentrating their minds. We also should, if we haven’t already, work on developing contacts with Iranian resistance leaders and providing them with whatever assets are feasible. And we should be infiltrating and developing intelligence assets. It’s a bit embarrassing for the world’s mightiest power that tiny, beleaguered Israel is more adept at intelligence gathering, last April acquiring and publicizing reams of Iranian secret nuclear documents detailing the mullah’s serial violations of the JCPOA.
The theocratic regime has been relentlessly progressing to the creation of nuclear weapons, and we don’t know for sure how close or far they are from success. Historically, inspections protocols have not been able to stop a determined adversary, from Germany’s stealth rearmament program in the early Twenties that violated with impunity the Versailles Treaty prohibitions of German remilitarization, to North Korea’s decades-long shell-game with international inspectors, and serial violations of multiple agreements. Treaties and other non-lethal means of changing rogue behavior are “like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through,” as Jonathon Swift described laws.
Sooner or later, action will have to be taken to stop Iran. The present discontent of its people offers an opportunity to take perhaps the last chance to stop Iran without lethal force––if we give Iranians our vigorous support, and pressure the Europeans to stop making their business interests more important than the possibility that the world’s worst state supporter of terrorism will be armed with nukes. The time to act is now, instead of continuing a Micawber foreign policy of waiting for something––regime change, or Israeli action––to turn up.