U.S. Secretary Mike Pompeo, in a statement posted on the Department of State's website, noted that Iran has shown no willingness to live in peace. (Photo by Atta Kenare/AFP Getty Images)
On Saturday, September 19, after months of futile diplomatic efforts to extend the UN ban on Iran's purchase of advanced weapons, the Trump administration implemented "snap back" sanctions as set forth in the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). That action was taken, said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, because "The Iranians are largely ignoring the most important components of the [nuclear deal] with respect to nuclear enrichment."
The sanctions were imposed despite the objections of China, Russia and members of the European Union who stated that the U.S. could not do so because U.S. President Donald J. Trump had withdrawn from the JCPOA. To complicate the issue further, U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden has promised that, if he wins the presidency, he would rejoin the nuclear deal and lift sanctions, diplomatic actions that he apparently but incorrectly believes will entice the mullahs to make peace and dissuade them from building nuclear weapons and ICBMs.
Questions now arise. What will Russia, China and the EU do about the new sanctions? Will Iran honor what is left of the JCPOA? After all, it never honored the JCPOA agreement -- which it had never signed-- in the first place. Is it even possible to make peace with Iran's anti-Western theocracyin the hope that it will moderate its disruptive actions in the Middle East, at homeand elsewhere?
Russia, China and the EU, for their part, now that the UN arms embargo is ending, will be tempted to sell Iran advanced weapons – including missile and nuclear technology. Should they do so, the U.S.,according to the U.S. Department of State, will harshly sanction all companies that conduct such trade. Actions to deter trade with Iran will likely also propel Washington to blacklist moreIranian banks.
As current events analysts Mark Dubowitz and Richard Goldberg explain, "at least 14 Iranian banks remain open for business with foreign customers. These banks are Tehran's financial lifeline." They continue: "...the American Financial Crimes Enforcement Network declared Iran's entire financial industry a primary jurisdiction for money laundering... If these determinations have any meaning, all Iranian banks need to be banned from global finance;" however, allowing Covid-19 related humanitarian assistance through a Swiss financial channel utilizing one bank, could be permitted.
Some in Congress would evidently like to do just that. A letter sent to President Trump by Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) as well as other senators urges the administration to "impose sanctions on the entirety of Iran's financial sector" that may still be connected to the global banking system known as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT). "Iran's desperate economic circumstances provide a critical opportunity for the United States to force the regime to abandon its malign activities and return to the negotiating table on your terms," the senators wrote.
With regard to the JCPOA itself, Iran's serious and continuing violations of the nuclear enrichment terms of the existing agreement reflect the true intentions of the mullahs
Iran's belligerency is further exemplified by the threat made by General Hossein Salami, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) to "hit" all Americans connected to the killing of his predecessor, General Qasem Soleimani. His threat was underscored by intelligence reports of Iran's intention to assassinate the US ambassador to South Africa.
Like other criminal cartels, Iran has operational arms, including the IRGC, Hezbollah and Hamas, to do itsdirty work. In 2014-15, Iran's terror proxy, Hezbollah, financed its terrorism through smuggling contraband cigarettes in the United States, and working with Venezuelan drug cartels to smuggle drugs and traffic in women and children. Revealingly, an early-completed law enforcement effort to take down Hezbollah's cigarette smuggling ring was shut down by the Obama administration just before the 2015 JCPOA was concluded.
Hezbollah's partnership with Latin American cartels appears to be further evidence that Iran has transformed itself into a criminal enterprise with tentacles in the Western hemisphere and that cross U.S. borders. There is also the possibility that Iranian-sponsored terrorism will appear on U.S. soil.
When Al Qaeda decided to strike directly at America in the decade after the end of the Cold War, the U.S. suffered the horror of 9-11. Like Al Qaeda, Iran may now be planning not only to attack America and its allies in the Middle East but also to strike the American homeland. The FBI, after 9-11, already detailed in the United States the widespread presence of terror cells, particularly those of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, all Iranian terrorist proxies.
Iran terror proxies could release a biological weapon like Covid-19, or destroy several of the 31 critical US infrastructure nodes, as shown in the 1999-2004 Gilmore homeland security commission findings. Even if Americans are tempted to think that they are safe from "loose" nuclear weapons smuggled across U.S. borders, or that missile defenses could intercept missiles fired from a ship close to the shore, it would be foolish to sleep easy knowing of the potential threats threat posed by Iranian terrorists.
If anyone thinks that diplomacy can resolve such threats, one need not do any more than remember the diplomatic success Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain had in preventing Nazi Germany from attacking Poland.
Peter Huessy, Senior Consulting Analyst at Ravenna Associates, is President of GeoStrategic Analysis