Special to WorldTribune.com
By Fred Fleitz
A Wall Street Journal report on Dec. 30 came as a shock to official Washington.
The report said that the U.S. Treasury Department, in response to Iranian missiles tests last fall, notified Congress that it was planning to sanction about a dozen companies and individuals in Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong for their suspected role in Iran’s missile program.
The sanctions notification to Congress said: “Iran’s ballistic missile program poses a significant threat to regional and global security.”
The notice came days after Iran fired rockets in the Strait of Hormuz on Dec. 26 that came within 1,500 yards of a U.S. aircraft carrier.
New U.S. sanctions against Iran would be a significant policy shift by the Obama administration, which has been criticized for making too many concessions to Iran to reach the nuclear deal and not holding Iran accountable for its behavior during and after the nuclear talks.
Iran’s ballistic missile tests in October and November violated UN Security Council resolutions and contradicted claims by Obama officials that under the nuclear deal Iran would comply with these resolutions for eight years.
But then the sanctions were abruptly canceled on Dec. 31 when the Obama administration notified Congress they would be indefinitely delayed due to “evolving diplomatic work.”
This stunning reversal came after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered his defense minister to speed up the country’s missile program in response to reports of new U.S. sanctions over its missile tests.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes defended the decision to call off the new sanctions on Iran by saying “We just have additional work that needs to be done” with Iran and “they [the Iranian government] don’t get a say on who we impose sanctions on.”
Congressional supporters of opponents of President Obama didn’t buy Rhodes’ explanation and strongly criticized the indefinite delay of the new sanctions.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) said: “I believe in the power of vigorous enforcement that pushes back on Iran’s bad behavior. If we don’t do that, we invite Iran to cheat.”
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) said: “I fear that pressure from our ‘partners’ — or threats from the Iranian government that it will walk away from the deal or threaten the U.S. in other ways — have caused the administration to rethink imposing sanctions for Iran’s violations of the testing ban.”
Coons and Corker are right. This embarrassing reversal by the Obama administration shows that the Iran nuclear deal is restricting U.S. policy more than it restricts Iran’s. The reason is that President Obama is so desperate to protect his legacy nuclear deal with Iran that he will not agree to any U.S. policy initiative that could cause Tehran to back out of this deal.
Iranian leaders know this and it has emboldened them to engage in increasingly belligerent policies since the nuclear agreement was announced last July.
The sanctions reversal came two weeks after the United States and other members of the IAEA Board of Governors voted unanimously to close the IAEA’s file on Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons even though a Dec. 2, 2015 IAEA report on this issue said Iran failed to fully cooperate with an IAEA investigation and Iranian nuclear weapons work continued at least until 2009.
The report also said it did not have conclusive evidence that Iranian nuclear weapons work continued after 2009; language that some Republican congressmen interpreted as meaning the IAEA may have unconfirmed information that Iran’s nuclear weapons program was never halted.
The Obama administration’s reversal on missile sanctions against Iran is the latest indication that the nuclear agreement with Iran is national security fraud.
The seriousness of this fraud likely will worsen through 2016 as Iran continues to engage in belligerent behavior and ignores its commitments under the nuclear agreement while the Obama administration defiantly looks the other way to protect President Obama’s legacy nuclear agreement with Iran.
Jan. 20, 2017 cannot come soon enough for a new Republican president to tear up the disastrous ObamaBomb nuclear deal with Iran.
Fred Fleitz, a former CIA analyst, is on the Editorial Board at WorldTribune.com and Senior Vice President for Policy and Programs for the Center for Security Policy.