By Irina Tsukerman
With Prime Minister Netanyahu’s presentation of the 100,000 pages worth of records from the Iranian nuclear archives smuggled by the Mossad out of the country overnight, the ball as to the future of the JCPOA is now squarely in President Trump’s court. The expectation from the foreign policy circles based on the President’s reaction to the revelations of Iran’s non-compliance with the terms of the deal is that the United States will withdraw from the deal. However, the discussion has largely focused thus far on the symbolism and on Iran’s likely reaction. Little has been said what US and its allies can or should do to make this withdrawal meaningful. Indeed, for all intents and purposes, only the United States has been complying with the terms of the deal up until this point. Iran, which has not been a signatory, covered up information about its program.
First, beyond the symbolic withdrawal from the deal, the United States should immediately reimpose all sanctions. That seems nearly too obvious to mention, and yet, for President Trump, facing a great deal of pressure on all sides, it may be tempting to announce the withdrawal, without following up with meaningful practical steps. Similarly, the pressure is on to ignore Europe’s continuous cooperation with the regime and not sanction them for engaging with Iran. Nevertheless, the United States should be taking very public steps to show engagement with other allies, who are, in fact, siding with us on this issue, and who will support our national security concerns by not engaging in actions that will empower our adversary.
European states are now counting on the apparently indispensable diplomatic and economic relationships between Europe and the US. Upgrading and giving strategic depths to relations with other potential markets and diplomatic counterparts who do not take us for granted will send as strong a signal as merely placing sanctions on Europe. It will also allay the concerns of those who believe that sanctioning European states would irreparably damage our relations, and US security. However, we will be merely holding all our allies to the same standard, and doing away with soft bigotry of low expectations. Indeed, some of our Middle Eastern allies are increasingly close to US paradigm with respect to regional and international security threats, and deserve to be treated accordingly.
Second, the administration should reexamine its defense and offense strategies given that Iran, if the nuclear program has expanded, may be closer to nuclear weapons than it was three years ago. It should be treated, at this point, as an existential threat, and our intelligence efforts should be focused on exploring and understanding its capabilities, as well as any other program. As Mike Doran pointed out, we have now learned the dual use programs that Iran has concocted to cover up its nuclear exploration. However, that is likely just the tip of the iceberg. And the location in Tehran is possibly just one site of archived information. However, meticulous this archive may have been, if Iranians were smart, they would not put all their data in one basket.
Indeed, Mossad has absconded with the documentation last January – and for months, Iranians, who surely knew about the purloined letters, kept it under wraps. Their reaction likely would have been a lot more vociferous had this portion of the documentation was the most incriminating of what they had in their possession. The regime at that point likely figured that the documents would be publicized sometime close to the deadline for the JCPOA withdrawal decision, and all this time had been preparing accordingly. Perhaps the documentation, will give the allies hints as to where the remainder is stored, and as to any other clandestine sites and programs. However, in the event that the information there is limited, the US should take it for granted that Iran’s most serious violations remain clandestine and not tiedinto anything that is relatively easily accessible even to the brazen Mossad officers and their assets. Iran’s clandestine work may have continued in Syria, in Africa, and any other places that are difficult to access, much less attack.
Third, expect the nuclear deal apologists to move goalposts. Some, like Europeans, are financially invested in the preservation of the deal. Others have ideological interests; still others are simply embarrassed to admit they were wrong, and are worried about losing their status as experts. The goalpost movement is defined in two ways: first, by claiming (falsely) that everyone knew Iran lies, and that current violations are not sufficient to establish non-compliance with the deal, and withdrawal. In the immediate future, prior to the reimposition of the sanctions, the US should formally reimpose the sunset clauses (while quietly taking whatever action is needed to counter the ongoing and growing threat). The demand for inspection is not for the sake of Iran, but for the sake of showing good faith in minimizing the likelihood of immediate hostilities – since the original reasoning for the deal was “capitulation or war”. Iran will inevitably refuse adequate inspections by the US, and reimposition of sanctions, prepared in advance, should commence immediately. Second, they will argue , withdrawal from the deal will insure a nuclear Iran. However, Tehran obliged the administration by hinting that they are no longer beholden to the deal and are planning to withdraw regardless of anything the US has done. That was likely the plan all along. The reality is, the terms of the deal were likely a formality, and Tehran knew that JCPOA would not survive in original form more than a couple of years. They saw it as a respite, not a permanent solution. Perhaps, they took the time to develop much more serious chemical and biological weapons, to prepare fr the eventuality of being called out on their “cheating”.
Fourth, Iran is a global threat. The nuclear program was always only a means to an end, which was the domination of the region, and revival of the Persian Empire backed by Khomeinist principles. For that reason, it is important to counter Iran aggressively on all fronts – domestically, by going after its property and government officials, connected to security threats and human rights violations – and internationally, through black ops against its proxies and militias – in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon. The US and her allies shouldmake t costly and difficult for Iran to engage in any military operations and terrorist attack whatsoever.
All of Iran’s external forces should be weakened, destabilized and demoralized. The US should make the recruitment and public defection of high level assets a priority. Generals, ministers, and clerics should be enticed away to show the weakness of the regime. Simultaneously, Iran’s intelligence operations abroad should be pursued with fervor equal to the dismantling of Sunni terrorist cells. Iran’s relations with North Korea and Syria should be disrupted, forcefully. Any enablers, including Russia and Turkey, should suffer consequences for cooperating. Nations, including Ahwazis, Kurds, Baluchis, and Azeris inside Iran,burdened by the encroachment of Iran-backed militias or by internal Iranian discrimination and abuses should be receiving direct assistance and empowered against these militias.
On Tuesday, May 8, President Trump finally took steps to counter the unwarranted legitimization of President Obama’s private and unenforcible deals with Tehran by withdrawing from JCPOA. The administration followed up by blocking Boeing and other jet sales to the Islamic Republic under the conditions of the JCPOA withdrawal..However, in light of our European partners continue to do business with the ayatollahs, which ultimately punishes our own companies without putting sufficient pressure on Iran to open military sites to inspections, cease ballistic missile development, release all US and other Western hostages, and curb global aggression. For that reason, Iran remains a grave and immediate security threat to the US. President Trump should take the following actions yo counter Iran’s continuing and growing bellicosity.
Still, Iran will continue to cause damage and test US resolve in any way that it can. It has weaponized Hamas to use its own citizens as human shields, through bribery, threats, force, and brainwashing. Violent riots which have cost lives to operatives and civilians alike culminated in a mass attempt to breach Israeli borders the day US inaugurated its new embassy in Jerusalem, coinciding with the celebration of Jerusalem Day, marking the reunification, as well as Israel’s 70th anniversary. As many as 35 thousand people tried to breach the border, hiding knives and other weapons, and blowing up pipes, and sending fiery kites over the border. Out of 60 people reported killed, at least 24 were identified as Hamas operatives. Shin Bet announced that Hamas is funded by Iran; this specific operation was organized in advance and developed, with Iran’s backing, to make Israel look as bad as possible in the eyes of the international community.
Despite the White House putting the blame for the incidents entirely on the Hamas, the spin artists managed, once again, to use Israel’s superior military capability to portray the terrorist organization as an underdog, which, despite using 35K human shields and professional operatives, could have been somehow deterred with rubber bullets. Turkey, likewise took advantage of the situation, to kick out the Israeli ambassador, and withdraw its own envoys from Israel and the US. Israel retaliated by kicking out the Turkish Consul. Iran once again managed to score points indirectly after the recent bad week that it had, with Israel destroying much of its military capabilities (at least the ones that are reported) in Syria, the Trump administration imposing new sanctions on several individuals and entities, and the free ride of the JCPOA coming to an end, with potential consequences even for Europe.
Domestically, Iran shut down dissenters by slowing down the Internet speed and shutting down most VPNs, making it more difficult for its own protesters to gather or plan future actions. Iran, despite coming increasingly under pressure from the United States, continues to score points, first by using Israel as a pawn and playing on the disinformation, entrenched positions, and lack of access to alternative paradigms which plagues the Middle East, utilizing leftist bigotry in the West, shifting the blame to others, and sowing chaos through propaganda – all the way increasingly shutting down any possibility of internal criticism over its continuous use of funding to arm terrorist organizations abroad.
Ironically, most Palestinians themselves, have little to say about Iran’s role in this predicament or its treatment of its own Arab population, among others. Hamas, despite being a tyrannical and violent government that has used all international aid not to build housing, or infrastructure, but to construct terror tunnels to Israel, continues to remain blameless , and Gaza residents – at least the ones who speak out in public – continue to maintain the position that Israel, which had drawn from Gaza many years ago – both curtails their freedom and is somehow responsible for providing this territory with all necessities. Hamas, thus, despite being a failed organization, and a failure at governance, continuous to maintain legitimacy, and remains a threat, largely through its masterful play on international biases and deceptive propaganda – all in the service of Iran, and its own leadership, which resides in Turkey and retains immunity from all ills.
US opposition to all Iran proxies, including Houthis, and militias in Africa, should be made public on equal footing toountering the threat of Hizbullah. All these groups should be treated as equal threats, and certainly should be considered threats equal to or greater than ISIS, Boko Haram, and other forces of chaos. Disrupting Iran’s financial operations should go hand in hand with military operations, as Iran finances assorted groups, including Hamas, that only enhance security threats for US allies, and make focus on countering the single source of this hydra in Iran much more difficult. Indeed, Iran made itself very difficult to target by surrounding itself with a gamut of proxies, all of which keep the allies distracted from focusing on the main goal, and the source of this misery – the corrupt, manipulative ayatollahs, who are managing to survive by feeding off the weaknesses, divisions, and vulnerabilities, inside and outside the country. It is time to show them, an unflinching and united front. Furthermore, it is time to reach out to the Middle East allies, who are likewise threatened by Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, and their proxies, and get them involved in putting an end to this charade. Only when IRanian proxies are out of power can the Palestinian issue even begin to be addressed seriously; only when funding from some of the worst culprits in the Middle East – Iran, Turkey, Qatar, and Muslim Brotherhood – stops flowing, will Palestinians begin to hold their own leadership accountable for their situation. And Iran will finally start to lose its ideological hold over the fiefdoms it created all over the region.