Officials wait for a meeting with officials from P5+1, the European Union and Iran at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne March 31, 2015..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Like a cacophonous orchestra or a badly coordinated sports team, US foreign policy-makers seem to be working at cross purposes vis-à-vis Tehran’s nuclear weapons program.
On the one hand, the Obama administration appears to be bent on cutting a deal with the Iranians even if it is bad.
This explains Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest concession to the mullahs. This one has to do with the past military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. Up until last week, the consensus among the P5+1 nations (at least the Americans and Europeans) and the International Atomic Energy Agency was that it was absolutely essential that Iran fess up to past transgressions. Failing to do so would make it difficult if not impossible to know where to look for current and future violations.
But now Kerry is telling us that knowing about Iran’s past is no longer important. “The possible military dimensions, frankly, get distorted a little bit in some of the discussion, in that we’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another. We know what they did. We have no doubt. We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in,” Kerry said last week.
President Barack Obama has tried to make the case on a number of occasions that no other feasible option exists for stopping Iran’s nuclear weapons program besides a negotiated agreement. He has also claimed such a deal would have a moderating effect on the Islamic Republic.Obama has insisted that the Iranians are rational actors who will inevitably adhere to the basic contours of such an agreement.
While Kerry and Obama strive to reach a deal with the Islamic Republic, the US State Department, in its annual report on terrorism issued on Friday, has a very different message to relay. Iran, it turns out, is one of the world’s biggest state supporters of terrorism. Throughout 2014 and into 2015 – the period during which negotiations were going on between the P5+1 and Iran – the Islamic Republic continued its terrorist-related activities unabated. The State Department assessment suggests that neither the election of the supposedly “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani nor the prospect of a nuclear accord with the P5+1 has had a moderating effect on Iran’s activities in the Middle East and the world as a whole.
“We continue to be very, very concerned about IRGC (Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps) activity as well as proxies that act on behalf of Iran,” said Tina S. Kaidanow, the State Department’s senior counterterrorism official, referring to the Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen and Palestinian terrorist organizations in Gaza. “We watch that extremely carefully.”
The report also found that Iran expanded its foreign operations in Africa, Asia and South America. Just last week, yet another dummy bomb was found near the Israeli Embassy in Montevideo, Uruguay. In February, Tehran’s ambassador to Uruguay was summoned to the country’s Foreign Ministry to explain why an Iranian diplomat was spotted close to a dummy bomb planted in November of last year.
How are we to understand these conflicting messages? On one hand, President Obama is bringing to bear all of his influence to convince Americans, Saudis, Israelis and others in the region and elsewhere of the importance of reaching an agreement with the Iranians. And the Obama administration has shown a willingness to facilitate reaching a deal by abandoning its redlines – such as the demand that Iran reveal the history of its nuclear weapons program.
On the other hand, the US State Department acknowledges that Tehran continues to support terrorism around the world. Could it be there is a connection between Iran’s continued aggression and the US’s conciliatory approach to Iran? After all, the Iranians have no reason to believe that the Obama administration’s assurance that “all options are on the table” is anything but an empty mantra.
Tehran has not been forced to face military or even diplomatic retribution from the US for remaining a leading state sponsor of terrorism. If anything, the Iranians have learned from the very different fates of Libya and North Korea the importance of obtaining nuclear weapons as quickly as possible.
While Washington helped overthrow Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after he gave up his nuclear program, the White House has avoided a military confrontation over North Korea’s nuclear program.
Harmony and consistency must be brought to US foreign policy. This will only happen when Congress, on a bipartisan basis, insists that Iran stops supporting international terrorism and the administration reassesses the merits of the nuclear arms agreement currently being negotiated with Tehran.