Last Thursday, at the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Secretary of State John Kerry said, "I think that some of it (the money from the Iranian nuclear deal), will end up in the hands of the IRGC or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists”, adding, "You know, to some degree, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that every component of that can be prevented. But I can tell you this, right now, we are not seeing the early delivery of funds going to that kind of endeavor at this point in time."
Now that the money has already been released, Kerry casually acknowledges an inevitability that we, who have been in opposition of the Iranian nuclear deal, have been arguing all along.
Last May, White House spokesman Josh Earnest was asked by a reporter whether or not when the sanctions are dismissed, there will be an increase in Iran’s destabilizing operations in the region and funding of Hezb’allah and other groups, he responded, “I think, most importantly it’s the hope of the Iranian people that the influx of resources will be devoted to meeting the needs of the population there.”
This is yet another example of the triumph of “hope” in Obama’s foreign policy over “realism”. We have all known that since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iran has chosen to use most of its GNP for guns and not butter.
Those of us who were against the deal, were not simply opposed to it because Iran will legally be allowed to have access to nuclear weapons in a mere 10 years -- and that is assuming that they will not cheat. (One might do well to ask: What is ten years in the life of a nation?) It was because we knew that an enormous cash influx will go to the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, which will be used to further carry out more dastardly acts against civilians. We knew it would go to further destabilize the region with its proxy wars, and would only contribute to a feeling of growing triumphalism and empowerment against its Sunni Arab rivals, what it regards as “the minor Satan”, Israel, and “the great Satan”, the United States.
In 2012, when Iran was under its most stringent sanctions, the Islamic Republic contributed $2 billion to Hezb'allah alone, and about $6 billion to the forces of Bashir Assad in Syria. How could anyone with a brain is his head not conceive of the possibility that Iran will use some of this money to carry out further acts of terrorism and to use it to foment more instability and chaos in the most explosive region of the world, and beyond.
The cavalier tone the Secretary had injected into his Davos comment further enrages anyone who appreciates the menacing nature of the Iranian regime. It has long been known that Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and that billions of Iranian rials have found their way to the coffers of Hamas, Hizb’allah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Houthis in Sa’na, Yemen, the forces around Bashir Assad in Syria, and fueling the threatening flames of the fourteen-century internecine fissure between Shia and Sunni Islam that portends to further destabilize the entire region, as each side is vowing for Islamic hegemony.
Since “Implementation Day”, January 16th, Iran has access to the SWIFT, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication banking system, which now enables Iran to easily move money around to its various terrorist proxies. As a result of the sanctions, SWIFT had disconnected 15 Iranian banks from this global financial network, but as of “Implementation Day” Iran now has access to over 10,800 financial institutions worldwide.
It gives little comfort to know that Secretary of State Kerry says that the opponents of the deal inflated the amount that Iran will now have access to, that after “settling their debts” the more accurate sum will not be the $100 to $150 billion dollars, but “would more likely be about 55 billion dollars”.
Yes. A mere $55 billion, and that is assuming you buy into the secretary’s generous calculations on Iran’s behalf.
Then the Secretary of State resumed the role of attorney for Iran, with the baffling statement that “The Saudis alone spend $80 billion a year on defense. The entire Gulf state community spends $130 billion a year on defense”, he said. “Iran spends $15 billion a year on its military activities. So it’s incredibly disproportionate.”
First of all, that was before this enormous sum, (whether it be $50 billion or $150 billion, it is still enormous), was released. Further, does that mean we have got to fill these coffers to the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, just to even the score?
President Obama has made similar statements, right after the JCPOA was agreed to, flippantly saying on July 15th, “We know that Iran just won’t spend it on daycare centers and roads and paying down the debt”.
The cavalier nature of these statements demonstrate that these individuals have never spent any time talking to some of the American victims of Iranian terrorism.
I have spent much time over the last few decades meeting with people who have lost loved ones to Iranian-backed Palestinian terrorism. You can see the enormous pain etched upon each one of their faces.
When a loved one is murdered by a terrorist, it is an irreparable loss, as though a chamber has been ripped out of one’s heart. There is always loss when a loved one dies, but the pain of having a son or a daughter, or loved one, ripped out of one’s life by something so earth-shattering and unpredictable as terrorism, is almost too much to bear.
When I was in Israel two weeks ago, I met with Arnold Roth, Malki Roth’s father. Malki was a beautiful 15-year-old girl who played the violin exquisitely and wanted to be a special education teacher. She was one of two Americans who was blown up the Sbarro Pizza Restaurant suicide bombing in Jerusalem in August 9, 2001. The other American was Judith Greenblum, 31, who was pregnant at the time. There were 15 people, all told, who were killed at that event.
Malki is one of at least 62 Americans that I know of who have been killed by Iranian-backed Palestinian terrorism since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Each one of their stories is more difficult to listen to than the last.
I would like to ask President Obama or Secretary Kerry to spend an hour or two with Arnold Roth, or with the families of the other Americans who have lost loved ones at the hands of Iranian-backed Palestinian terrorists, and then to discuss the possibility that some of this money will end up in the hands of terrorists. And I wonder if their tone would then be quite so dismissive.
When the pursuit of a personal legacy becomes the driving force of a foreign policy, to the extent that one can be so cavalier about the fact that some of this money will go to fuel terrorism, we, as a nation, have lost an important part of our moral fiber.
Sarah N. Stern is Founder and President of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, EMET, an unabashedly pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, DC.