Iran More Aggressive as Nuclear Deal Fails

So says Benny Avni in his January 11 article in The New York Post.

Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State-designate, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday that under Obama, America was too willing “to ignore violations of international accords, as we have done with Iran.”

Tehran has more than once produced more plutonium than the deal allows. Reportedly, the Obama administration helped Iran avoid this violation by buying the excess heavy water that Iran was overproducing. They argued that by getting heavy water out of Iran, we’d be slowing its path to a bomb. 

The Associated Press reported this week that in addition to some $8.6 million that the United States paid Iran to ship out its excess heavy water, Iran also received compensation in the form of 116 metric tons of raw uranium.

Avni writes, “Now, it’s true that under the nuclear deal Iran is allowed to possess raw uranium, which can be used for peaceful energy production. But if further enriched, it can be used to make bombs. In this case, the raw uranium we gave Iran, once enriched, could make up to 10 nuclear bombs.”

Olli Heinonen, former UN nuclear inspector, reports that Iran is acquiring raw uranium from other sources as well, saying that this “suggests [Iran] may be stockpiling uranium to reach nuclear breakout before the deal’s initial limitations expire.”

Avni wonders what happens if President-elect Trump tears up the deal, now that the Iranians have all the raw material they need.  He says, “It almost sounds like we’d be foolish to break the deal, because that would ensure Iran’s fast-track path to a nuke. Obama’s insurance against his deal being undone was, in effect, to make the whole situation much more dangerous.”

If confirmed, Tillerson said that he’d order a “full review” of the Iran deal, and that there’ll be “no nuclear enrichment in Iran, no storing of nuclear materials in Iran,” and we’d “hold [the Iranians] to that agreement.”

Avni outlines another concern, that of Iran being willing to risk a military confrontation with us. President Obama argued that the improvement in Iran’s economy that the deal enables will strengthen Iranian ‘moderates’ and weaken the hardliners.

Yet Iran has become more aggressive since the deal was struck. It has sent weapons and fighters to Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and the rest of the region increasingly destabilizing it.

A UN report this week, documented Iranian weapons transfers to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthis in Yemen, in violation of a UN Security Council ban on such Iranian exports.

Additionally, Iranian boats got dangerously close to an American destroyer, the USS Mahan, in the Strait of Hormuz, also this week. The Mahan was forced to fire warning shots, risking a major confrontation in a busy commercial naval passage.

And again this week, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a rival of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, died. Allegedly, this is good news for Khamenei’s allies, the Revolutionary Guard, which is now set to further dominate Iran’s politics, and already controls much of Iran’s economy, while backing an extremely hard line against America and advancing the clandestine nuclear program.

Avni asks what the incoming administration should do…

Tillerson’s preference would be to negotiate a better deal. Designating the Revolutionary Guard as a terror organization would be one way to do that.

Recommitting to ridding Persia of the clerical regime is another powerful signal we could send.  By doing so, we’d put it on notice that making the wrong move will risk confrontation with the world’s foremost superpower.