Crunch Time Over Iran



The White House has made good on its promise to reinstate even harsher sanctions against Iran in the aftermath of the confusing disconnect between  President Donald Trump’s own rhetoric and key members of his intelligence, foreign policy and security teams.

The president had promised to scrap the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, which Trump called one of the worst foreign policy agreements in history. Even as the administration was reimposing and increasing economic sanctions against the Iranian regime, Trump indicated that he might be willing to meet face-to-face with President Hassan Rouhani “without preconditions.”  

Then, Trump walked back from that statement after Mike Pompeo, his secretary of state, said that Iran would have to meet certain conditions before summit talks could be held.

Now, the president and his intelligence, foreign policy and security advisers must come together on the same page and maintain a united position on how to deal with the rogue rulers in Iran. The president needs to curb his impulsive, obsessive use of tweets about major issues that serve only to boost his ego at the expense of a coherent and united policy.  

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In dealing with efforts to prevent a regime like Iran from developing nuclear weapons, too much is at stake to engage in ad lib comments that merely muddy the waters and confirm the doubts that Trump critics have about his fitness to handle such crucial matters.

Among the many views issued about the renewed and stronger sanctions on Iran, the stance of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations last week contains many sound points.  

The statement issued on behalf of the conference by Arthur Stark, chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman and CEO, begins:

“It is our hope that the imposition of new sanctions will lead to meaningful negotiations and bring an end to the variety of threats that the Iranian leaders have been making. Beyond its nuclear program, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been expanding its support for terrorism in the region and globally, undermining and destabilizing governments in the region, and issuing military threats, including against the very existence of the state of Israel.”

Those threats, and the weekly hate sessions in which officially sanctioned mobs chant “death to Israel” and “death to America,” must be taken seriously.

Since the Islamist Revolution in Iran in 1979, the theocratic regime has flouted international law.   

Early in its misrule in Iran, the regime of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini supported the “student takeover” of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, holding 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. The hostage crisis was a major factor in President Jimmy Carter’s failure to win a second term. The hostages cleared Iranian airspace the moment President Ronald Reagan completed his oath of office.

Seizing an American embassy amounts to an act of war.  Other than a futile effort at a military rescue, which failed utterly, the crisis was allowed to drag on for more than a year. Iran never paid a political price for its takeover of the embassy.

Every decade since the ayatollahs took over Iran, there has been a popular uprising against the rulers in power, including one in 2009 that came close to toppling a regime that has become increasingly unpopular among several sectors of its population.

Iran and Russia have used Iran’s proxy terrorist group Hezbollah to keep in power Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, whose government is responsible for more than 500,000 deaths, dozens of attacks with chemical weapons and the displacement of over 12 million Syrians from their homes.

The statement by the Conference of Presidents also includes a plea to the European allies of the United States, some of whom are signatories to the Iran nuclear deal:

“We urge European and other countries to support the U.S. efforts for a more compressive arrangement for stricter compliance rules without sunset clauses, a prohibition against the development of long- and short-range ballistic missiles, along with any weaponization program, unfettered access to military and other barred sites for inspectors, and of course, a demand that Iran cease all human rights violations.”

That sound course of action from the conference provides a clear, sensible blueprint to repairing the defects in the existing Iran deal and assuring that it accomplishes its goal of permanently barring the terrorism-supporting regime from developing nuclear weapons of mass destruction. Let’s hope those who can make it happen listen to such wise counsel.