Israel is counting the days until the American presidential election. It only needs, it says to itself, to get through this year, this month, this week.
It must just keep on ducking and feinting to protect its security and the lives of its citizens until the nightmare of this most hostile US president in memory finally ends. Just as it has been forced to do these past seven years.
For Iran, in stark contrast, President Obama’s remaining year in office offers a window of unparalleled opportunity. By gifting its regime more than $100 billion in sanctions relief, Obama has not only released funds with which the world’s most dangerous jihadist entity can ratchet up its terrorist and genocidal program, pumping money into its al-Quds force, Revolutionary Guards and Hamas.
These are also months during which the president of the most powerful country in the world has signaled that the Iranian regime can act with total impunity.
Obama is trapped by his fear that Iran might at any time renege on the nuclear deal and restart its manufacture of nuclear weapons – which a State Department official nevertheless tells us with a straight face the regime has abandoned for ever more. With this blackmail threat now paralyzing the Obama administration, Iran knows it can do what it wants.
It acted upon that understanding even before the nuclear deal was completed, when it almost scuttled the simultaneous and hitherto secret prisoner exchange by detaining the family of the American hostage Jason Rezaian for several hours at Tehran airport.
When they were finally released and the prisoner swap completed, US officials sighed with relief – too soon. For following the lifting of sanctions, Iranian- backed militias promptly kidnapped three Americans contractors in Iraq.
According to CBS News, the US Embassy in Baghdad was warned days previously that a Shi’ite militia intended to seize American hostages. Officials had hoped the Iranian regime would tell it to back off because of the prisoner swap. So the militia waited until that exchange was done and dusted. How Tehran must have smirked.
Iran is intent upon stepping up its four-decade jihadi war against the US and humiliating it in the process.
Just a few days before sanctions were lifted, the Revolutionary Guards held at gunpoint 10 US sailors whom they captured on two American patrol boats which for some reason had entered Iranian territorial waters. On December 26, the Revolutionary Guards test-fired rockets close to an American aircraft carrier, the USS Harry Truman, in the Strait of Hormuz.
Such actions are designed to convey to the world the message that the US is now powerless and Iran invulnerable.
And with its reaction to every such incident, the US underscores that message.
It behaves like someone who, punched repeatedly in the face, insists through a split lip that his attacker is reforming himself and invites him to hit him again.
Its prisoner swap has positively incentivized the further taking of American hostages. The deal released seven Iranians convicted or charged with violating sanctions and halted proceedings against 14 others, two of whom the US had accused of funneling weapons to Hezbollah and the Assad regime.
This was in exchange for five detained Americans who had done nothing wrong. Exchanging suspected and convicted criminals for innocent hostages now puts other Americans at far greater risk.
After Iran revealed it was continuing with its illegal ballistic missile program, the US merely applied sanctions to some of the firms involved. To which limp response the regime unsurprisingly declared that it would now continue its ballistic missile program “more seriously.”
Iranian threats to ditch the nuclear deal almost certainly pushed the International Atomic Energy Authority to close the file on investigating whether Iran had pursued a nuclear weapons program in the past, despite finding that it had continued such activities until at least 2009 – after which the IAEA just didn’t know.
Iran has now announced that it will build advanced nuclear centrifuges capable of enriching uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon, faster than its previous models.
Who can possibly be surprised that, presented with craven and groveling appeasement, Iran responds by evermore brazen and defiant aggression? Step forward the US.
Apparently, the White House was shocked – shocked! – by the kidnapping of its three contractors in Iraq. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. The nuclear deal was supposed to moderate Iranian behavior.
Can the Obama administration really be that stupid? Yes it can.
One official said sanctions relief would dilute “the hold on power of the old guard.” Well, here’s how that one is playing out. Since the deal was agreed on last July, the regime has stepped up arrests of political opponents in order to ensure that the political allies of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, dominate next month’s national elections.
And in the first two weeks of this month no fewer than 53 Iranians were hanged.
The implications of America’s strategic, military and moral collapse go far beyond Iran itself. By giving that regime a free pass for its behavior, the US has sent the clearest signal to every other rogue state in the world – that it will not push back against them either.
Accordingly, other countries are also contemplating the next 12 months with intense alarm. Geopolitical realities are being reshaped. Saudi Arabia’s belief that the US has hung it out to dry has already hugely exacerbated Saudi/Iranian tensions.
That means their proxies will be battling it out in Syria and elsewhere for the foreseeable future.
And Saudi will now be intent on getting its own nukes, doubtless off the shelf from an obliging rogue state.
Which brings us back to the Iranian bomb. There are some who believe it already has it, or at least already has access to nuclear weapons having outsourced the testing of the bomb to North Korea. Iran is now pondering how to use the weapon to maximum destructive effect and without leaving its fingerprints on it.
I have no idea whether that is true.
But given Iran’s close association with the North Korean nuclear program, with Iranian scientists and other personnel having been present at three of North Korea’s four nuclear tests at least, does anyone believe that it could not get the bomb from Pyongyang even if it has not already done so? In which case, maybe the Iranian nuclear negotiation was a blind from start to finish. The real action was going on in North Korea while the dummies of the free world were looking the other way. The actual point of the deal was to lift sanctions by appearing to give ground on the nuclear program in Iran itself – thus releasing those billions to ratchet up Tehran’s deniable, proxy war upon the rest of the world.
Which, thanks to Obama, the UK government and the rest of the Western dummy class, Iran is now about to do.
Melanie Phillips is a columnist for The Times (UK).