U.S. political leaders of both parties argue that destroying ISIS is America’s top priority in the Middle East. In reality, that’s not as important as confronting the challenge posed by Iran.
A deal made a year ago may have postponed the danger of an Iranian nuclear bomb, but the multifaceted threat of a militaristic, messianic Iran is much more menacing to Western interests than the Sunni thugs and murderers of Raqqah and Mosul.
In negotiating the nuclear agreement, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany benefited by delaying the Iranian military nuclear project for 10 to 15 years, defusing political tensions with Iran and gaining Iranian cooperation in the fight against ISIS.
But Tehran gained much more than it gave up. In exchange for postponing its military nuclear project, it achieved the lifting of many economic sanctions, an end to its political isolation and the loosening of restrictions on its ballistic missile program. Tehran also won wide latitude to advance its influence throughout the region as it no longer fears a U.S.-led “military option.”
The evidence of Iran’s rogue behavior is overwhelming. It is the prime backer of the genocidal Syrian regime. It supplies Hezbollah, using it as a strategic tool to undermine the role of the Lebanese government. In Yemen, Iran sends arms to the Houthi rebels. In Israel’s neighborhood, Iran finances Palestinian Islamic jihad and certain Hamas elements. None of this has abated with the Iran nuclear deal; to the contrary, Iran has grown more aggressive on all fronts.
Concerned nations need to work together now to prevent Iran from exploiting the nuclear deal to redraw the political map of the Middle East in its favor and from capitalizing on the region’s instability to prepare for an eventual nuclear breakout.
In addition to ensuring strict inspection of Iran’s nuclear facilities, concerned nations need to pressure Iran on its ballistic missile program and support for terrorism. They must also work to enforce U.N. Security Council resolutions that prohibit Iran’s proliferation of weapons throughout the region.
It is not too late to repair the impression that the West views Iran as part of the solution to the problems of the Middle East, rather than the chief source of the region’s instability and radicalism.
Those who believed that the nuclear agreement would lead to a more moderate Iran, at home and abroad, regrettably suffer from wishful thinking. So long as the ayatollah’s regime governs Iran, we will see more executions, more repression, more tyranny.
This view of Iran is shared across the Middle East by countries that used to be antagonists. While the struggle between Israelis and Palestinians persists, any reference to the conflict between Israel and Sunni Arab states is, for now, obsolete. Today, Arabs and Israelis are in the same boat, facing Iranian-backed threats all around us; in terms of how to address these threats, we are also generally on the same page.
What we lack is leadership from our traditional allies in the West, especially our good friends in America. Should President Obama or his successor shift priorities and lead a campaign to pressure Iran to end its destabilizing policies, it will find willing partners among both Arabs and Israelis.