Ridge says, “Last week, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei accused the United States of failing to honor pledges in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Citing ‘the futility of negotiations with the Americans,’ he distanced himself from the nuclear deal he once supported.”
The one-year anniversary of the agreement recently passed, and the “era of good feelings” that U.S. negotiators believed lay ahead, never came into being.
“Tehran’s change in tune should come as no surprise.” Ridge continues, “Intelligence reports have long warned that the regime continued its attempts to obtain illicit nuclear material right up to the brink of implementation of the deal. And while the accord did institute constraints on Iran’s uranium enrichment program and its capacity for producing weapons-grade plutonium, the vast majority of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure remains in place.”
During a recent panel discussion in Paris, Robert Joseph, former U.S. special envoy for nuclear nonproliferation, spoke to this very issue, cautioning that the JCPOA had only compelled Iran to dismantle some of its enrichment centrifuges, but allowed them to stay safely in-country, ready to be re-engaged at the first opportunity.
Compared to the world community’s successes with other nuclear threshold states, such as Libya, who demonstrated genuine commitment by fully opening up their country to impartial international inspections. According to Ridge, “Iran has come nowhere close to this.”
He says, “The lack of transparent monitoring has been a major point of unease among critics and initial supporters of the nuclear agreement alike. The deal only establishes international surveillance of declared nuclear enrichment sites, failing to address the likelihood that illicit nuclear development is taking place in secured locations, undetected by foreign intelligence agencies.”
Iran successfully hid its nuclear efforts from the international community once before. In 2002, the Iranian resistance group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) revealed the secret details of the Iranian nuclear program. If it weren’t for this intelligence breakthrough, the regime would likely be armed with nuclear weapons now.
“Nuclear limitations aside, it’s hard to imagine that the hoped-for shift in Tehran’s foreign policy will materialize. The strategic contours are set by the supreme leader himself, whose support for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is unwavering. Various credible reports indicate that thousands of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps members are now operating in Syria.” Ridge declares, and adds, “Western policymakers should have recognized that the theocracy is inherently incapable of reform. If history is any guide, Tehran will exploit every weakness in the nuclear agreement as part of its relentless effort to deceive its enemies. And, it will use the current environment of Western complacency to intensify regional adventurism and support for extremist thought.”
Western leaders trusted that the ‘moderate’ regime in Tehran would also give more regard to human rights, as part of the deal. Instead, political opponents and activists continue to be arrested, tortured, and executed in ever increasing numbers. During Hassan Rouhani’s administration at least 2,600 prisoners, including many dissidents have been executed.
Ridge believes the deal led to no progress. “In return for modest, reversible concessions on the nuclear issue alone, the blood-drenched ayatollahs received sanctions relief from the United States and Europe to the tune of tens of billions of dollars, which has served, above all else, to further finance the Iranian regime’s illicit, inhumane, and destabilizing activities. If the regime decides to abandon the deal, it will emerge stronger than ever before, laughing in the face of the West’s foolish compliance.”
He warns, “Let Khamenei’s bellicose rhetoric stand as a warning and a call to action. Every interested American should urge the next president to chart a different, sensible course for American policy toward the fundamentalist regime in Iran. This course should, at last, reflect American values by identifying itself with the Iranian people and their cry for democracy and freedom.”