The Iran Talks set the Middle East Ablaze
In order to keep the Iranian regime at the nuclear negotiation table, the Obama administration and the P5+1 have allowed Tehran to tap into billions of dollars’ worth of sanctions relief money while retaining a considerable portion of its nuclear program. They’ve also left Iran’s rulers to their own devices, wreaking death and mayhem at home and throughout the Middle East.
Diplomats from the Obama administration tout the course of the talks and continue to try cajoling the Iranian regime into curbing its nuclear ambitions. Meanwhile, the byproducts and possible outcomes of this appeasement policy -- which remain unspoken and ignored -- rival the destruction that might follow a nuclear conflict.
So far, the rapprochement policy toward Iran has merely yielded a tentative nuclear framework deal that has been interpreted in completely divergent ways by the different parties involved.
The only thing that everyone agrees on is that under the final agreement, Iran gets to keep all 19,000 of its centrifuges, and more than 5,000 continue enriching uranium. Moreover, the highly-secure Fordow compound remains intact and continues to withhold a thousand-odd centrifuges, ready to be brought back online on a whim by the Iranian regime.
Therefore, even in the best-case scenario, Iran will not be stripped of its capacity to produce nuclear bombs and can make a break for it at a time of its choosing. The only thing standing between Iran and nuclear bombs will be its rulers’ word, which -- given their history in duplicity and deception -- is not the least bit credible.
Meanwhile, emboldened by Obama’s weakness for avoiding confrontations in other domains, Iran has beefed up its involvement in the Syrian conflict to help Bashar al-Assad avoid being dislodged from power.
Using sanctions relief money obtained thanks to the Geneva interim agreement signed with P5+1 in 2013, Iran has sent troops, arms, and supplies to shore up Assad against democratic opposition forces, prolonging a war that should have ended long ago. Now in its fourth year, the conflict has already claimed the lives of an estimate 300,000 Syrians and driven millions of others from their homes.
Elsewhere in Iraq, Iran continues to exert its influence at an increasing pace. Iran’s meddling in Iraq has driven a wedge through the sectarian divide, marginalized the Sunni community, and created the perfect breeding ground for the growth of extremism and flourishing of the Islamic State, now a source of international concern.
Last year saw the deaths of more than 10,000 Iraqis, and the carnage has continued through 2015, with a considerable amount of it to be laid at the feet of Iran’s proxy Shiite militias which are ostensibly fighting the Islamic State. It will take years -- if not decades -- to heal the scars. Meanwhile, Obama is only concerned with keeping Tehran’s rulers at the negotiating table, to the extent that he sent a letter to Iran’s supreme leader, proposing cooperation against IS in Iraq in exchange for a nuclear deal.
Yemen is another venue where Iran has taken advantage of Obama’s lack of firmness, where it has aided and abetted Houthi militants in triggering a brutal domestic conflict that is now spilling into neighboring countries and has given breathing space to the most dangerous franchise of the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
Obama’s failed policy toward Tehran also manifests itself in the steep decline of the human rights situation in Iran itself, especially in the past year. Following the signing of the framework agreement, the Iranian regime has gone into a frenzy of executions and suppression to prevent the reemergence of uprisings by a population long fed-up with their rulers. The idleness of the West spurs Iran’s rulers to continue their killing spree without fear of reprisal by the international community.
A nuclear deterrent will be a perfect complement for the Iranian regime’s ideology of terrorism and extremism. The West’s current rapprochement policy is only encouraging Iran to stick to its nuclear ambitions while ratcheting up its other nefarious activities.
A successful approach in respect with Iran would leave no room for leniency toward the despots ruling Tehran and would deal with the multitudes of threats posed by this regime as a whole instead of compartmentalizing them. The Iranian regime must dismantle its nuclear program in its entirety. Furthermore, Iran’s human rights violation and sponsorship of terrorism and extremism must not be neglected and should be addressed in tandem with the ongoing talks over its nuclear program.
Finally, the Iranian people’s aspiration for freedom and democracy must be heard and embraced by the international community.
The Iranian regime has lost its legitimacy both at home and has proven time and again that it does not intent to be a respected member of the international community. It’s past time that the Iranian regime be dealt with as an enemy and its hostile behavior be met with firmness.
Basiri is an Iranian human rights activist and supporter of democratic regime change in Iran. Follow him on Twitter: @Amir_bas