By John R. Bolton
Even Iran’s ayatollahs must be amazed at what they have gotten away with since last July’s Vienna deal, which purportedly eliminated their nuclear weapons program. The mullahs now act like they call the shots on the deal and throughout the Middle East. Trashing the Saudi embassy in Tehran, “spontaneous” in appearance only, is just the latest evidence, recalling a 1979 “spontaneous” demonstration that resulted in U.S. diplomats held hostage for 444 days.
Barack Obama repeatedly acquiesces in Iran’s egregious behavior; President-in-waiting Hillary Clinton shows no sign of breaking with him or the Iran policies she initiated as Obama’s secretary of State.The administration’s latest act of appeasement is to delay new sanctions against Iran for its ongoing ballistic missile development work. This retreat is inexplicable except as part of a desperate effort to keep the Vienna agreement alive no matter what the costs or risks to America and its friends.
For our country’s safety, the Obama-Clinton appeasement of Iran must be central in voters’ minds as they consider candidates for president this November.
Cataloguing Iran’s recent provocative behavior would produce a long list, including firing rockets dangerously near U.S. warships; threatening reprisals against us for tightening visa requirements against states engaged in terrorism, like Iran; and Tehran’s chutzpah-heavy charges that Washington is breaching the Vienna agreement. Iran is pushing to speed the arrival of “Implementation Day,” when long-standing restraints imposed because of its nuclear-weapons efforts begin disappearing, unfreezing over $100 billion of assets and lifting economic sanctions.
To obtain these benefits, Iran is taking the limited, easily reversible steps the Vienna deal requires, like reducing the number of operating uranium-enrichment centrifuges and transferring low-enriched uranium to, of all places, Russia. Simultaneously, however, it has repeatedly flouted innumerable prior assurances about the “peaceful” nature of its nuclear efforts.
These include long-standing stonewalling and flat-out lying to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA’s December report revealed evidence that Iran continued weaponization activities until at least 2009 when the information available dried up.
Unfortunately, Obama’s deal is the central problem. Iran’s status regarding weaponization, which the Obama administration essentially gave up trying to assess, is central to understanding Iran’s recent blatant conduct: testing ballistic missiles which violate U.N. Security Council resolutions, even if not Vienna. These missiles are intended as delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons, not to launch weather or communications satellites. Since Obama’s concessions, fully supported by Clinton, make it impossible to know how near Iran is to weaponizing highly enriched uranium, and therefore placing warheads on ballistic missiles, we cannot judge accurately when Iran will have the actual physical capability to hit American targets.Accordingly, when Tehran announces that it will continue and expand missile testing — and Obama (and implicitly Clinton) retreat from imposing economic sanctions — Washington is pursuing an extraordinarily dangerous policy. Moreover, we have known for almost two decades that Iran and North Korea collaborate intimately on their respective missile programs.
The Vienna nuclear deal was an unprecedented American diplomatic surrender. Obama’s subsequent behavior is cementing appeasement as the central theme of his Iran policy, thus compounding the dangers for ourselves and our friends in the Middle East and globally. Tehran knows full well that Obama’s successor will inherit a dangerous modus vivendi, a behavior pattern where Tehran establishes the rules and the United States acquiesces. The ayatollahs expect the next president will follow suit.That, of course, is utterly unacceptable. Iran will need a rude awakening. The only good news since the Vienna deal was signed is that we can see clearly there is one unambiguous solution for the debacle Obama has created: The next president must abrogate the agreement on Inauguration Day.As the war on terrorism becomes increasingly grave, the risks that terrorists will obtain nuclear (or chemical or biological) weapons become increasingly grave. North Korean and Iranian nuclear capabilities have the potential to foster this “perfect storm” even without ballistic missile delivery capabilities.
That is why daily reports about the growing menace the Vienna deal poses for America cannot drop off our radar screens in 2016. After six months of watching it unfold, failure to reject this deal unequivocally is a disqualification to be president.
John Bolton, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.