Iran shows continued contempt for “international norms and international rules”
With the news that Iran has seized two American boats and detained 10 American sailors in the Persian Gulf just ahead of the State of the Union earlier this week, I’d like to go back to something that President Barack Obama said a little more than a year ago. Even though the sailors have been released, albeit under humiliating circumstances, the real story here, which the media is generally ignoring, is that they were taken prisoner in the first place.
At the end of 2014, Obama gave an interview to Steve Inskeep of NPR. When explaining his rationale for the nuclear deal this is what Obama said:
So, when I came into office, the world was divided and Iran was in the driver’s seat. Now the world’s united because of the actions we’ve taken, and Iran’s the one that’s isolated.
They have a path to break through that isolation and they should seize it. Because if they do, there’s incredible talent and resources and sophistication inside of — inside of Iran, and it would be a very successful regional power that was also abiding by international norms and international rules, and that would be good for everybody. That would be good for the United States, that would be good for the region, and most of all, it would be good for the Iranian people.
I’m not going to address the first paragraph quoted above except to say that for anyone who’s paying attention it’s clear that Iran is now in the driver’s seat.
It’s his comment about Iran becoming a “successful regional power … abiding by international norms and international rules,” that is worth looking at.
Better yet, let’s look at Iran’s behavior since the nuclear deal was announced. (It was never signed because Iran didn’t want to be bound by it.)
A few days after the deal was announced Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei took to social media to mock his new best friend tweeting, “US pres. said he could knock out Iran’s army. Of course we neither welcome, nor begin war, but in case of war, US will leave it disgraced.”
A week later Khamenei tweeted out the infamous Obama suicide meme.
At the beginning of August Iran declared the United States to be in material breach of the agreement based on a hypothetical statement that White House Spokesperson Josh Earnest made. Iran did follow through on its threat at the time, but it made it clear that it was prepared to jettison the agreement if the United States displeased it at any time.
Next Iran attempted to smear Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, with forged documents. Shaheed has been a critic of the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran under the purportedly moderate President Hassan Rouhani. In particular Shaheed has slammed Iran for its rising rate of executions. Over 1000 people were executed in Iran last year, the highest per capita rate of executions in the world.
American reporter Jason Rezaian who had been held for more than a year was convicted of espionage in October and later sentenced to a term in jail that was never made public.
Iran also boosted its support of Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad responsible for most of the carnage in his country’s civil war by sending troops to defend Assad. Iran’s presence in Syria poses a potential new threat for Israel.
Later in October, Iran tested a nuclear-capable ballistic missile that was later determined by the United Nations to have been in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929. The administration, in response to Congressional pressure, was set to impose new sanctions on Iran at the end of 2015, but retreated when threatened by Iran.
As we moved into 2016, Iran allowed a mob to torch the Saudi embassy in Tehran, after Saudi Arabia executed a prominent Shi’ite cleric.
That’s eight incidents, (by no means a comprehensive list of Iranian bad behavior over the past half year) that we’ve documented here, even before Tuesday’s seizure of the American ship and sailors. But these incidents each show the growing Iran contempt has for “international norms and international rules.”
The nuclear deal has not provided Iran with an impetus to play by the rules, but rather has encouraged Iranian aggression.
In presenting the administration’s position about the capture of the boats and sailors on Tuesday, Earnest had this exchange with Jake Tapper:
[TAPPER]: “I hear you, but they have 10 American sailors in their custody right now, Josh. I mean, I think there are probably a lot of Americans watching this thinking, why are we about to give them sanction relief? They have 10 Americans in – wherever they have them. In a boat, in a cell, whatever.”[EARNEST]: “We’re going to have sanctions in place against Iran because of their continued development of their ballistic missile program. And we’ve been pretty clear about the fact that Iran is going to be subject to additional sanctions because of the tests they conducted at the end of last year. So we continue to be concerned about this situation. That precisely is why the president made preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon a top national security priority, and we’re making progress in actually accomplishing that goal.”
In the first part of Earnest’s answer he says, “we’re not scared of imposing non-nuclear sanctions on Iran.” But in fact the administration has delayed implementing those ballistic missile sanctions indefinitely in response to objections from Iran!
As for the last part of Earnest’s statement he has things backwards. It is the administration’s shocking deference to Iran in the nuclear deal that made the seizure of the sailors and boats inevitable as Iran continues to test President Obama’s resolve.
The only question remaining is when will Iran cross a line that cannot be ignored. It will happen, but probably won’t as long as Obama is president.