Washington Examiner, By Amir Basiri
Wednesday, 30 August 2017
Last week, Iran's atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi warned that the Islamic Republic can ramp up its uranium enrichment level to 20 percent in a matter of days, a short step away from weapons-grade material. Many will dismiss Salehi's comments as an attempt to up the ante a day before U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley met with International Atomic Energy Agency officials in Vienna to discuss Iran's nuclear program.
But for two distinct reasons, there's no definitive way to make sure Salehi is bluffing: First, Iran's history in hiding its illicit nuclear program, and second, the porous agreement that is supposed to prevent Iran from obtaining atomic weapons.
In 2015, the international community missed an exceptional opportunity to solve Iran's nuclear threat in a lasting manner. Instead, led by President Barack Obama, the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany achieved the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, an accord that gave too many concessions to the Iranian regime, legitimized its uranium enrichment program, and only managed to extend its breakout time (the duration it would take for Tehran to produce a nuclear bomb) for a limited period.
Obama was under no illusion about JCPOA's effectiveness in curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions or other nefarious activities, including its terrorist ventures and gross human rights violations. In an interview with NPR, he acknowledged that by the time the accord expires, Iran's nuclear breakout time will have been significantly reduced. He also made it clear that he placed his bets on moderating Iran's behavior before the nuclear deal runs its course.
"I think that it's important for us to recognize that, if in fact they're engaged in international business, and there are foreign investors, and their economy becomes more integrated with the world economy, then in many ways it makes it harder for them to engage in behaviors that are contrary to international norms," Obama said in the interview.
To do good on his promise, Obama frontloaded the deal with economic concessions and facilitated foreign investment in Iran. By doing so, he also made sure that his European counterparts would have an enormous stake in preserving the deal as is.
Two years later, Tehran's expansionist ambitions in the region and its human rights abuses at home have grown worse. Moreover, the Iranian regime is exploiting the ambiguous text of the JCPOA to engage in provocative activities such as testing ballistic missiles.
Meanwhile, billions of dollars' worth of deals, preliminary agreements, and letters of intent have made European states loath to revisit the many flaws of the deal or to confront Iran for its evil deeds. In effect, the JCPOA, Obama's historic foreign policy achievement, has become the source of a worsening crisis. As the sand escapes the hourglass, the Middle East continues to spiral deeper into chaos and the Iranian regime inches toward becoming a nuclear-armed state.
While the U.S reviews its standing toward the JCPOA and its general policy toward Iran, it should acknowledge that as long as a fundamentalist regime sits in Tehran, there will be no end to its nuclear ambitions, terrorist activities, and human rights violations.
So in tandem with addressing the gaps in the nuclear deal and undermining Tehran's destabilizing activities in the region, the right policy toward Iran should endorse democratic regime change. And contrary to what the proponents of rapprochement with Iran profess, replacing the Iranian regime doesn't necessitate a foreign invasion or an all-out military confrontation.
There's already a huge potential for change in the Iranian population, the first victims of the violent ideology of the mullahs ruling the country. The Iranian people categorically reject the regime's nuclear ambitions and its expansionist agendas in the region. Supporting their desire for freedom and democracy is the only way to find a permanent solution to the problem the JCPOA didn't fix.
In the words of former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich: "Iran must be free. The dictatorship must be destroyed. Containment is appeasement and appeasement is surrender. The only practical goal is to support a movement to free Iran. Any other goal will leave a dictatorship finding ways to get around any agreement and to lie about everything."