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US Puts Iran “On Notice.” How will Trump’s Administration Follow Up?

The newly elected US President’s administration imposed sanctions on Iranian entities involved in weapons procurement last month. This occurred just two days after Donald Trump officially put the regime “on notice” for ballistic missile tests. 

Iran conducted a second missile test last week in a defiant response to U.S. warnings.

The Supreme Leader of the regime,  Ali Khamenei, blustered in a desperate effort to save face, “No enemy can paralyze the Iranian nation. [Trump] says ‘you should be afraid of me.’ No!”

According to state-run TV, the regime’s sympathizers marched on the streets last week, on the anniversary of the 1979 revolution, to “swear allegiance to the clerical establishment” while chanting “Death to America.”

However, the days of turning a blind eye to Iran’s hostile and belligerent actions are over, said senior administration officials.

Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis, stated that he favors rigorously enforcing the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA. Still other officials continue to call for revocation or renegotiation of the deal.

Mattis called the extremist theocracy ruling Iran the worst destabilizing force in the Middle East, and a clear threat to Western interests. 

Undercutting the JCPOA may still be an option that Mattis supports, if it becomes clear that the agreement limits the administration’s ability to confront Iran over other issues.

A UN Security Council resolution categorically barred the regime from development or testing of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. While the JCPOA agreement was being implemented, the wording of the resolution was changed, and the resolution only “called upon” Iran to avoid work on weapons “designed to be capable” of carrying a nuclear warhead.

Of course, the meaning is the same, but Tehran believed it had been given a gift of vague wording, and this has allowed them to argue that they cannot punished by the international community for their testing of ballistic missiles that may be capable of striking Israel and various Western assets.

“The malign conduct of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its extraterritorial arm, the Quds Force in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen should have been recognized the world over as proof of the persistently aggressive preoccupations of the Iranian regime. The same goes for the regime’s capture of 10 American sailors in January 2016, multiple missile attacks on Iranian dissidents formerly residing in Camp Ashraf/Liberty in Iraq, and various threats and provocative maneuvers against US Navy vessels and aircraft in the Persian Gulf,” writes Member of Iran’s Parliament in Exile, National Council of Resistance of Iran, Ali Safavi, in his article for the Huffington Post.

The IRGC carried out yet another ballistic missile test just nine days after the US President was inaugurated, and sent a nuclear-capable weapon over 600 miles from a known launch site. This was followed by Iranian statements suggesting that these actions are plainly permitted since they are not mentioned in the JCPOA.

An appropriately assertive response from the Trump as a long-term strategy is desired, instead of a continuation of the appeasement that has characterized Iran policy. It is also hoped that the new approach will embrace the idea of reaching out to the Iranian people and the organized opposition.

The JCPOA has no bearings on the imposition of new sanctions related to the ballistic missile tests and other provocations by the Iranian regime. It is entirely up to the regime whether the expanded enforcement measures by the US lead to the failure of the nuclear deal, or not.  

Yet, considering the provocative gestures the Iranian regime  continues to make since that deal’s implementation, it should be clear to the administration and to the American public that it may be better to hold the Iranian regime accountable for their terrorism, their destabilizing role in the region, and rights violations at home.

Designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization will deprive the regime its force in the region.  It will, as well, send a signal to the people of Iran that the days of ignoring the regime’s aggression abroad and repression at home are over.

 

 

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