President Donald Trump's May 8 announcement that the United States was withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and considering fresh sanctions on Iran is a step in the right direction toward defending the country against Iran's growing nuclear-weapons program and open aim to destroy both Israel and America.
In addition, last week came to light in testimony by the founder and president of the Institute for Science and International Security, David Albright, that Iran had:
"... blueprints for the production of all the components of nuclear weapons, the location of planned nuclear weapons test sites, [and] details about a second building at the Parchin site involved in high explosive work related to nuclear weapons in an explosive chamber. This building has not been visited by the IAEA... [There was also] direct evidence that the secret Fordow enrichment site was being built to make weapon-grade uranium."
Three years ago, the Obama administration was boasting that the JCPOA agreement, reached on July 15, 2015 between Iran and the P5+1 countries (the U.S., the U.K., France, Russia, China and Germany) -- but without Iran ever having signed anything -- would "prevent" Iran from acquiring a deliverable nuclear bomb -- despite such assurances being set to expire in just a few years.
In return for a lifting of international sanctions, the White House promised, Iran would cease various nuclear activities -- something that would be verified by regular outside inspections.
This claim was false. In fact, what the deal actually did was to allow Tehran to conduct its own inspections of Parchin, a military site that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) itself believed had been engaged in the development of nuclear weapons, certainly up until 2003.
By the time the Obama administration, without Congressional approval, signed the JCPOA, Tehran's nuclear-weapons program was fairly advanced. Tehran had already mastered its uranium-enrichment technology and was in a position to produce a nuclear bomb within three months. The JCPOA, however, overlooked Iran's nuclear-capable, missile-development program.
Pictured: A launch of an Iranian Emad missile -- a precision-guided, intermediate-range ballistic missile. (Image source: Tasnim/Wikimedia Commons)
The JCPOA also enabled Iranian oil exports to grow from 1 million barrels a day to 2.6 million; permitted access to western goods and technologies; and provided Tehran with a cash injection of $100-150 billion, which had been frozen in its overseas accounts.
We are presumably supposed to believe that the Obama administration did not take into account that Tehran might use these economic boosts to bolster -- not curb -- its nuclear and conventional arms development. During his election campaign, and since replacing Obama in office, President Trump has repeatedly vowed that he would put a stop to the Iranian threat one way or another.
Addressing the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C. based think tank, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on May 21 repeated he administration's position: that Iran must cease uranium enrichment forever; provide the IAEA with a full account of the current and prior military dimensions of its nuclear program; allow international inspectors unfettered access to its nuclear installations; and disband its ballistic-missile proliferation. A week earlier, Trump's National Security Adviser, John Bolton, warned that countries that "continue to deal with Iran could face sanctions."
This should not be an empty threat, particularly in light of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's recent order to begin preparations to increase uranium enrichment. Rather than trying to fight Trump over his withdrawal from the JCPOA, all democracies should be supporting his move.
Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution -- which ousted the Shah and ushered in the reign of the mullah-led Islamic Republic -- Tehran has had a hegemonic agenda that is detrimental to peace and stability not only in the Middle East, but even throughout South America.
While pretending to engage in negotiations, the Iranian regime has sought to impose its radical version of Islamic governance across the Middle East to the Mediterranean and beyond. As former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote in 2015,
"On one level, Iran acts as a legitimate Westphalian state conducting traditional diplomacy, even invoking the safeguards of the international system. At the same time, it organizes and guides nonstate actors seeking regional hegemony based on jihadist principles: Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria; Hamas in Gaza; the Houthis in Yemen."
This brings us to Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, which Iran repeatedly and openly threatens to annihilate. Partly to this end, Iran has built "a substantial military infrastructure" in Syria, and has "trained large Shiite militias with thousands of fighters and sent advisers from its powerful Revolutionary Guards Corps to Syrian military bases."
Why, then, is India -- a democratic country and an ally of Israel's -- not backing the Trump administration when it comes to sanctioning Iran? Why did India's External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, categorically reject Washington's withdrawal from the JCPOA? Ahead of a meeting on May 28 with her Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, in New Delhi, Swaraj said, "We recognize UN sanctions and not country-specific sanctions. We didn't follow U.S. sanctions on previous occasions either."
The answer seems to be economic. Iran is India's third-largest oil supplier, with Indo-Iranian trade volume standing at about $13 billion. While looking out for its economic interests, however, New Delhi should not be oblivious to the possible damage that the current Iranian regime could inflict on secular, democratic India, if it is not stopped in time. The government in New Delhi might remember that Tehran has ties with jihadist groups based in India and Pakistan. In Kashmir, for instance, local cells of radical Islamists were found to have employed the strategies and tactics of the Iran-backed, Lebanon-based terrorist organization Hezbollah. Tehran also reportedly has helped rebuild al-Qaeda and has supplied anti-aircraft weapons to the Taliban. Like other radical Islamist groups, both al-Qaeda and the Taliban have had an agenda of targeting India.
It is thus unfortunate that Britain, France, Germany and the EU are among the other JCPOA signatories that still "remain committed" to the JCPOA. At a summit in Sofia, Bulgaria, in mid-May, EU leaders said they would continue to support the nuclear agreement, "as long as Iran respects the deal." What these leaders fail to understand is that any deal that protects the safety and democratic values of the West will never be accepted by Iran.
It is time for everyone to join the U.S. and President Trump in their efforts to prevent the Islamic Republic from having the ways and means to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power.
Jagdish N. Singh is a senior journalist based in New Delhi.