By Peter Huessy and Bradley A. Thayer
Source: The Hill
The State Department reported on Nov. 1 that Iran is not only the deadliest of terror-sponsoring states in the world but is expanding the scope and nature of its deadly attacks. Missile expert Uzi Rubin recently informed an international conference on air and missile defense in Dresden, Germany, that Iran is the most prolific builder of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. Moreover, its space launch vehicles are a precursor for the development of intercontinental-range ballistic missiles.
An assumption of the nuclear deal of 2015 — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — was that it would forestall Iran from building a nuclear warhead to place on its missiles. Much of this important assumption rested on a U.S. intelligence assessment that Iran’s nuclear weapons work ceased in 2003. Consequently, while Iran’s missile developments were of concern, these missiles widely were seen as not threatening the U.S. mainland or most allied capitals in Europe.
Whatever hope the world had that the nuclear deal would moderate Iran’s aggressive behavior evaporated when Iran embarked on an acceleration of its terrorist rampage. Tehran increased its support of Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis and Islamic jihad, including reportedly providing these groups with thousands of ballistic missiles and rockets. Iran’s Houthi proxy force in Yemen apparently has used those rockets to attack civilian communities and key oil depot and production facilities in Saudi Arabia.
Iran increased its military presence in Lebanon and Syria, even constructing local facilities to build weapons to use in its terror campaigns. Iran went further afield, attempting assassinations in Denmark, Sweden and England.
Since 1979, Iran has carried out IED attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, killing more than 600 American soldiers. Iran also has created smuggling crews allied with Mexican drug cartels to raise funds for the terror groups they support.
Some former top U.S. government officials often have cited the lack of a Palestinian homeland as the progenitor of much of the terrorism generated in the Middle East by Iran. Accordingly, Iran’s terrorism was considered a “fact of life” with which the U.S. had to deal but not at the cost of deep-sixing the nuclear deal.
But even as the JCPOA took effect, critics understood that the deal was simply what Israel described as “a glide-path to the bomb,” since all of its key guardrails against Iran’s building a nuclear device eventually would expire. Even more importantly, not only did Iran’s violent rampage increase after the deal was signed, its illegal nuclear weapons activities did not cease. Thus, the U.S. got the worst of both worlds — more Iranian terror, and Iran’s continued pursuit of the bomb.
Iran sought nuclear weapons technology from Germany, an activity that has surfaced again, according to German intelligence sources. Also, in the immediate wake of the 2015 deal, the Iranian government refused to come clean with the United Nations — as required — about its previous nuclear work, especially at Iranian military sites. Even more recently, the mullahs have taken a supposed “research” facility at Fordow and started enriching uranium with advanced centrifuges, an activity that must have been planned years in advance.
If Iran is trying to convince the world it has no intention to sprint to a nuclear bomb, it has a rather curious way of providing proof, as it: first, enriches uranium to a level in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal; second, produces nuclear fuel in excess of prescribed limits; and third, proclaims to the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has no intention to reveal nuclear work at military sites, despite anything the JCPOA requires.
Given Iran’s violations, its support for terrorism and its continued proliferation efforts, the U.S. government and the American people are compelled to ponder the threat to America once Iran develops nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them by intercontinental ballistic missiles.
President Trump perceived this threat and so decided to withdraw from the hugely flawed JCPOA. Instead, the Trump administration put together wide-ranging economic sanctions against Iran, dubbed a “maximum pressure” campaign. The U.S. has sold missile defense systems and other military equipment to our allies in the region so they can better help to deter Iran’s aggression. Moreover, the Trump administration has increased our own defense budget significantly to restore readiness and provide modern equipment to our military.
The robust U.S. sanctions have contributed to Iran’s serious internal crisis. Riots and demonstrations involving millions of Iranians are becoming more common and the regime appears to be losing its legitimacy. Iran has lost significant international support because of its reckless attack on the core of international commerce: Saudi Arabian oil facilities. Its human rights violations — false imprisonment, mass murder, torture — especially of women, children and LGBT people, has generated condemnation from Congress and the global community.
Iran poses a serious threat to the U.S. because of its nuclear and ballistic missile proliferation efforts and its willingness to attack U.S. allies. Keeping maximum pressure on the Iranian regime is a justifiable consequence of its actions. To defend its interests, the U.S., with its allies, must sustain a joint military deterrent in the region and support the democratic movement among the Iranian people.
Peter Huessy is founder and president of Geo-Strategic Analysis of Potomac, Md.
Bradley A. Thayer is professor of political science at the University of Texas, San Antonio, and co-author of “How China Sees the World: Han-Centrism and the Balance of Power in International Politics.”