Although we should not forget who among our elected officials chose to vote in favor of the Iran nuclear deal despite the plain dangers it created for America and Israel, the deal is done and the task at hand is to anticipate and provide for the military and security needs that will arise in its wake.
We were not surprised by last week’s report that Iran has insinuated itself into Russia’s plans for Syria, positioning itself literally at Israel’s doorstep and posing a challenge to Israel’s security interests and America’s influence in the Middle East.
In truth, we never expected Iranian leaders to waste much time, following their success in the nuclear negotiations, in seeking to sharply increase their regional role. Notwithstanding President Obama’s insistence that the Iranian nuclear deal had to be measured only in terms of whether it thwarted Iran’s nuclear weapons aspirations, did anyone really believe Iran would not try to take swift advantage of its newly empowered position?
In any event, several principles should guide our future policies vis-à-vis Iran.
Iranian officials have had some very contentious things to say about what the words of the agreement mean for the parties involved. In this context there is the all-important inspections issue. There is also the matter of the extent to which Iran must restrain its so-called non-military nuclear activities and its purely military programs, i.e., such things as missile research and development. Key also is when and with what regularity sanctions are to be eased or removed.
Just this past week, it was learned that embedded in the nuclear agreement is language that generally allows foreign subsidiaries of American companies to do business in Iran as long as Iran complies with the agreement. The problem is that for several years American law has imposed sanctions against Iran over its support for terrorism that will not be lifted even if Iran complies with the nuclear agreement. Those sanctions specifically apply to both domestic operations and their foreign subsidiaries and will remain in effect until the president certifies to Congress that Iran has been removed from the State Department’s list of nations that sponsor terrorism and that Iran has ceased the pursuit, acquisition, and development of weapons of mass destruction.
Iranians continue to insist the nuclear sanctions regime is to be lifted as soon as they have embarked on the road to compliance. They also insist that development of non-nuclear weapons is beyond the reach of the agreement.
In our view, the most prudent course for the United States is that our interpretation of the agreement’s treatment of these points must prevail; otherwise, even the paltry concessions we received from Iran will be negated. For example, the U.S. must seek the maximum the text of the agreement permits in terms of the scope, regularity, and spontaneity of the inspections. And until there is significant evidence of Iranian compliance, the sanctions must remain in place and strictly enforced regardless of what Iran may claim.
This is not an unreasonable approach. All it entails is sticking to what we believe was agreed to in the first place. And if Iran has a problem with it, so be it.
We trust that President Obama – despite his desire to downsize the military – and his successor will appreciate the need for a military reevaluation to counter what most believe will be the eventual emergence of a nuclear Iran. In any event, the vast military resources of the United States provide us with a safe harbor.
The same cannot be said for Israel, and the president assured supporters of the Iran deal that his administration would continue to ensure that Israel maintained a qualitative military edge over any possible attacker. This commitment must take into account the likelihood of a nuclear Iran at some future point, as well as a currently emboldened Iran that views itself as having stood up to the world’s powers and put itself in a position to increase its influence in the region as well as its budget for terror once the sanctions are lifted.