What makes the new Iran sanctions significant?
Last week, the Senate passed a bill that outlines a new round of sanctions against the Iranian regime for its ballistic missile development, arms transfers, support for terrorism, and human rights violations. With approval from the House of Representatives and President Trump's signature, the measure, titled the Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017, will become law.
In the backdrop of the Trump administration's tougher stance toward Tehran and the foundation of a regional coalition against Tehran's mischief-making, the new sanctions will mark a major shift from Obama's hands-off approach to Iran's nefarious activities.
Under the nuclear deal signed between Iran and the world powers in 2015, also known as the JCPOA, Tehran had agreed to freeze parts of its illicit nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling international sanctions. However, the deal had many gaping holes and failed to address the other threats the Iranian regime posed to the region and the world.
Fearing that Iran would walk away from the deal, the Obama administration had implicitly given Tehran a free pass on domains that were considered off the limits of JCPOA.
In this respect, the Revolutionary Guards, the military body that runs a host of illicit operations for the Iranian regime, had benefited immensely. While taking Obama's weak stance as a cue to continue testing missiles and ramp up its meddling in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, the Guards and regime officials have constantly claimed that their actions are not in violation of the nuclear accord.
Ironically, regime officials are now protesting that the new sanctions passed by Senate are a breach of the nuclear agreement.
Overwhelming support in Congress for tougher measures against the Iranian regime comes at a time where there's general consensus that Tehran is at the heart of the crises engulfing the Middle East.
"In 2017, ISIS is not a threat to regional stability," James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and Iraq, told Bloomberg last month. "The threat now is Iran."
"A comprehensive Iran policy requires we address all of the threats posed by Iran and it is clear there are many," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters at the State Department in late April.
In this context, new sanctions will send a strong message to the mullahs ruling Iran, who had been carrying out their nefarious deeds in the region without fear of reprisal in past years. It will also be welcomed by Middle East nations, whose leaders clearly reiterated in the recent Riyadh Summit their disdain for Iran's destabilizing role in the region and underlined the need to firmly confront the subversive and destructive Iranian activities inside their countries.
Above all, the bill can send a welcome message to the Iranian people, who are the number-one victims of their rulers' crimes at home and abroad and most deeply wounded by Obama's failed appeasement policy toward Tehran.
"For a people that are capable of so much, their foreign policy is shockingly counter to their own interest," Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and author of the Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act, said last week on the Senate floor.
This can become prelude to supporting regime change in Iran, which is the true desire of the Iranian people and the only solution to restoring peace and stability in the region.