Concessions provided to Iran by U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were troubling, even among those who supported the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Cash from Washington to Tehran for the release of Americans held in Iran came first. Second was Kerry advocating in Iran's favor to provide the mullahs access to the U.S. banking system. Third came America's top diplomat cajoling businesses to open shop in Iran.
Alongside these measures came a trend of passivity and neglect. The Obama administration chose not to respond to Iran's missile tests, ongoing support for terrorism, atrocious human rights record and the Syria genocide it did nothing to stop or even alleviate.
Most recently, Iran violated yet again an obligation to limit its heavy water storage to less than 130 metric tons. And the Ayatollahs are continuing their production, evidently feeling good after their excess amount was purchased by Washington.
The U.S. and others approved Russia transferring a massive natural uranium shipment to Iran. Why? Under the pretext of compensating Iran for exporting a large amount of reactor coolant, a number of Western governments appear to believe they are committed to keeping Iran loyal to the badly flawed deal.
This was appeasement, even in Obama's last days in office.
While the Obama administration pledged to ensure Iran complied with the deal, these measures appear more as efforts to facilitate Iran violating the agreement. The 130 tons of natural uranium to be delivered to Iran are enough raw material for 10 nuclear bombs, and then some.
The Obama administration seemed to be seeking the higher interests of Iran, not America and its allies.
Such efforts will only encourage Iran's regime to continue its malignant behavior with no concern for any possible accountability. This appears to be the true JCPOA deal Obama promised to implement in his misleading effort to sell the entire package.
To add insult to injury, unsurprisingly, members of Iran's parliament (Majlis) took advantage of Obama's lame-duck presidency and his desperate effort to preserve his so-called foreign policy legacy to make an intriguing announcement. According to Reuters:
"Iranian lawmakers approved plans... to expand military spending to five percent of the budget, including developing the country's long-range missile program which U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to halt."
While Obama, through the JCPOA, may have sought to support Iran's so-called "reformers," it now seems that instead, the "hardliners" (read Revolutionary Guards) are taking full advantage, as Obama was warned they would.
While former United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon described Iran's missile launches as "not consistent" with the spirit of the JCPOA, and concluded more recently that Iran "may have violated an arms embargo by supplying weapons and missiles to Lebanese Shi'ite group Hezbollah," the Obama administration chose to remain mute.
The stage is set for the incoming Trump administration to hold Iran to its commitments. The U.S. Congress has acted swiftly by extending existing sanctions laws, sending the message that Iran understands best.
Iran has taken advantage of the Obama doctrine mostly in Syria, turning it into ruins in an effort to shore up and maintain Bashar Assad at the helm. This dossier is crucial for Tehran, as emphasized by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
The solution is clear. Nearly two dozen former senior American government officials signed a hand-delivered letter to President Donald Trump, urging his administration to work with the Iranian opposition. The letter reads in part:
"To restore American influence and credibility in the world, the United States needs a revised policy... Along with these policy adjustments, we repeat the call for the U.S. Government to establish a dialogue with Iran's exiled resistance, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)."
The NCRI, led by Maryam Rajavi, is an umbrella of Iranian dissident groups including the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Rajavi enjoys support among Iranians both inside the country and abroad, and among a long slate of international political, cultural and religious dignitaries.
This should be the cornerstone of U.S. policy with Iran after Obama's concessions brought nothing but misery for the Middle East.
Heshmat Alavi is a political and rights activist. His writing focuses on Iran, ranging from human rights violations, social crackdown, the regime's support for terrorism and meddling in foreign countries, and the controversial nuclear program. He tweets at @HeshmatAlavi & blogs at IranCommentary