Iran must have had trouble believing its good fortune during the Obama Administration. An American president was not only willing to overlook Iran’s misdeeds, but was actually willing to act as Iran’s advocate in talks designed to pave the way for Iran’s nuclear ambitions - however much the parties involved insisted the opposite was true.
Given the opportunity, the American people have a habit of making sure policies like that are replaced with better ones, and it’s becoming clearer by the day that Iran’s luck in dealing with Washington has run out:
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday accused Iran of ‘alarming ongoing provocations’ to destabilize countries in the Middle East as the Trump administration launched a review of its policy toward Tehran.
Tillerson told reporters the review, which he announced on Tuesday, would not only look at Tehran’s compliance with a 2015 nuclear deal but also its behavior in the region which he said undermined U.S. interests in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.
His tough words matched those of U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who said in a visit to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday that Iran’s destabilizing influence would have to be overcome to end the conflict in Yemen.
President Donald Trump ordered the review to evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to the nuclear deal was “vital to the national security interests of the United States,” Tillerson said
Though there was no sign the Trump administration intended to walk away from the deal, Tillerson twice cautioned that if left unchecked Tehran could become a threat like North Korea, which is also under pressure over its nuclear ambitions.
Tillerson points out that this is not about withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, at least not yet. Iran is meeting its obligations under that deal, which doesn’t really mean much because Iran’s obligations under the deal are not very extensive. There is hardly any enforcement or inspection mechanism, so even if Iran cheats there’s almost nothing we can do about it.
For now, though, this is mainly about Iran’s support of terrorism and its activities toward the goal of destablizing other nations. Team Obama didn’t care a whit about this, even acknowledging that the unfrozen assets Iran got back as part of the nuclear deal would probably go to support such activities, but declaring that simply the cost of doing business and not worth scuttling the deal over. Team Trump says not so fast, and is reviewing its policies toward Iran as a result.
Now, what does this mean? If Tillerson isn’t laying the groundwork for us to abandon the nuclear deal at some point, it’s hard to say what other kind of policy change is going to make a difference. Even under Obama we didn’t re-establish former diplomatic relations, which were broken off during the hostage crisis of 1979-1981 and have never been restored. Of course, the absence of an embassy or an ambassador were more of a technicality under Obama because the Hillary and Kerry State Departments worked extensively with Iran’s foreign ministry. There is no reason the Trump Administration needs to continue that.
But some of our former policy toward Iran would be hard to restore, especially economic sanctions that were joined at the time by many other nations. Those nations are now dealing extensively with Iran thanks to Obama’s nuclear deal, and would probably not resume sanctions simply because Trump wanted them to. That doesn’t mean there would be no impact if the U.S. once again froze Iranian assets in this country, but there aren’t as many left as there were because Iran got so many of its assets back when the nuclear deal was finalized.
Iran is a similarly tricky question to North Korea because a rogue nation determined to develop nuclear weapons might have to be stopped with a military strike. Iran is a big, mountainous country that would not provide easy targets, even if we were to drop a Mother Of All Bombs type weapon on it. And if it came to that, a ground war against Iran would be far more difficult than the ones we fought against Iraq, which is about one-third Iran’s size.
But at least we have an administration that recognizes Iran is basically the same country that took our people hostage in 1979, and understands there is a reason we don’t do business with such regimes. Obama had a narcissistic fantasy about being the historic president who would make things right between the U.S. and rogue regimes like Iran and Cuba. That did no good for anyone because he demanded nothing in return from the bad guys, and the end of such foolhardy stances would be one of the best ways Trump and Rex Tillerson could usher in a new era of U.S. foreign policy.
Dan Calabrese’s column is distributed by CainTV, which can be found at caintv.com
A new edition of Dan’s book “Powers and Principalities” is now available in hard copy and e-book editions. Follow all of Dan’s work, including his series of Christian spiritual warfare novels, by liking his page on Facebook.
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