By Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post
Thursday, 21 April 2016
The Iranians clearly see the JCPOA as a first step in their effort to recalibrate its relationship with the West, that is to force the United States to recede and enable it to dominate the region. With President Obama, Iran is pushing on an open door. He plainly wants to disengage from the region, to the chagrin of our Gulf and other Sunni allies.
We therefore have a new dynamic. Iran challenges us, violating one or another aspect of international law (e.g., seizing our sailors, testing ballistic missiles). The administration plays down the issue. Lawmakers become irate. The president issues some empty rhetoric. Congress says it will act, but Democrats will not do anything effective. The pattern repeats.
The latest example, according to a report from Bill Gertz, is Iran’s “first launch of a new rocket that the Pentagon views as a key element of Tehran’s effort to build long-range missiles. The launch of the Simorgh space launch vehicle on Tuesday was judged by U.S. intelligence agencies to be partly successful but did not reach orbit, said defense officials familiar with reports of the test.” Gertz continues:
At the State Department, spokesman John Kirby said he could not confirm the missile launch.
“Obviously we’re watching this as best we can,” Kirby said. “Certainly if it’s true and we’re talking about a ballistic missile launch or the testing of ballistic missile technologies, that’s obviously of concern to us. It’s not consistent, as we said before, with the Security Council resolution …” . . .
Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) said he is concerned about the latest Iranian missile development.
“An Iranian Simorgh space launch vehicle test would be a provocation of the highest order and shows Iran’s true intentions,” Cotton told theWashington Free Beacon.
“The intelligence community has said publicly that this [space launch vehicle] technology would aid an Iranian [intercontinental ballistic missile] program. And the only reason one develops ICBMs is the delivery of nuclear weapons,” Cotton added.
If we really cannot confirm the launch this surely undercuts the administration’s notion that if Iran violates the JCPOA we will know about it immediately. In any event, this appears to be one more attempt to turn a blind eye toward Iranian provocation so as not to rock the boat. Congress should move ahead on sanctions legislation.
"The only thing that will end the serial provocations and new demands from Iran — followed by the administration folding — is definitive, meaningful legislative action."
A related pattern we see is Iran repeatedly pushing the limits of or reinterpreting the JCPOA. The administration agrees, fearful it will lose its precious deal. Congress objects, recalling whatever the concession on the table was as previously ruled out when the administration was selling the deal. Iran threatens, the administration relents, and Congress fumes.
In that vein, for weeks now Iran has been pressuring the administration for access to U.S. dollars either directly or indirectly. At first the administration denied that anything was in the works, and then it suggested there might be a workaround that would not directly give Iran access to our banks but nevertheless would enable engagement in dollar-ized transactions. Secretary of State John F. Kerry in essence told us earlier this week to prepare for another cave. “We agreed to – we’re both working at making sure that the JCPOA, the Iran agreement – nuclear agreement – is implemented in exactly the way that it was meant to be and that all the parties to that agreement get the benefits that they are supposed to get out of the agreement. So we worked on a number of key things today, achieved progress on it, and we agreed to meet on Friday,” he said. “After the signing of the climate change agreement, we will meet again to sort of solidify what we talked about today.”
As we have reported, the administration’s potential collapse is triggering a strong bipartisan backlash. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.) introduced legislation to block the move. Today, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) weighed in. In a written statement, he asserted:
Key administration officials have repeatedly promised that Iran will not get access to the dollar, but that’s not what Secretary Kerry said on Tuesday. He left the door ajar, if not completely wide open, to renegotiating an issue that could give Iran an unprecedented economic windfall.
On Tuesday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) introduced legislation that would block the administration from making this disastrous concession. This is another step in our effort to deny American dollars from fueling a regime that continues to sponsor terrorism, abuse human rights, and test-fire ballistic missiles.
As Speaker Ryan said earlier this week, “The administration should definitively rule out any potential workaround that provides Iran—directly or indirectly—with access to the dollar or the U.S. financial system.”
We hope that’s the message Secretary Kerry delivers to Foreign Minister Zarif on Friday. (Emphasis in original)
Meanwhile, there was a speck of good news for those standing up to Iran in the case resolved at the Supreme Court yesterday. As The Post reported, “The justices ruled 6 to 2 that Congress had not violated the separation of powers when it passed a bill making it easier for about 1,300 people to collect money on behalf of those killed or injured in the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut and other attacks blamed on Iran.” Bank Markazi, Iran’s central bank, will now be forced to give families access to billions in frozen assets. (The families have an outstanding judgment for $10 billion against Iran.) The amount pales in comparison to the $100 billion dollars or more Iran got when sanctions lifted, but it is something, maybe the only push-back Iran is getting presently.
Despite Iran’s huffing and bluffing, it is not about to walk away from a deal that is paying such handsome dividends. It, not the United States, should be concerned about making sure the deal survives. It is only this president who lets the Iranians use the deal to get whatever it did not obtain at the bargaining table. The only thing that will end the serial provocations and new demands from Iran — followed by the administration folding — is definitive, meaningful legislative action. Let’s see if Senate Democrats, and even Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, can muster the courage to stop giving away the store and do what the administration promised — use sanctions against Iran for egregious nonnuclear conduct.