Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Obama’s Iranian miscalculation

White House
By Tyler Q. Houlton
The Hill, February 01, 2016 - President Obama’s misguided nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran has prompted outrage on Capitol Hill and emboldened the rogue regime. If anything, Iran’s behavior has become more bellicose in recent months. Some of the most high profile incidents of Iran’s saber rattling since the mullahs inked the controversial pact with the Obama administration in July of last year include Tehran’s decision to conduct at least two ballistic missile tests and the detention of ten American sailors at gun point. Obama’s latest decision to swap seven Iranians convicted of violating U.S. embargoes and international sanctions for five American prisoners, while simultaneously lifting sanctions, paying at $1.7 billion ransom to the theocratic government, and releasing roughly $100 billion to Iran (equal to over ten percent of the entire Iranian economy), is certain to encourage even more belligerent Iranian behavior, further inflaming regional tensions. Obama’s decision to impose a largely inconsequential and symbolic round of sanctions on a dozen individuals and entities involved in Iran’s missile program in the wake of recent events is simply a distraction from the real Iranian threat.
America has had a difficult time containing Iran since 1979, when the Iranian revolution began and Islamic militants loyal to Khomeini took over 60 American hostages for 444 days. U.S.-Iranian relations have been tense ever since.
In order to successfully prevent a nuclear Iran, this administration, and the next one, must reinstate tough economic sanctions targeted at the upper brass of the Iranian government, institute a moratorium on Iranian student visas.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently reported that at least a half a million foreign citizens overstayed their visas, including hundreds of Iranians. Appallingly, DHS also created a visa waiver loophole, with Obama’s permission, solely for Iran. To combat an enemy, it’s absurd to educate them and give them insight into our culture and institutions only to send them back to work for an anti-American government.
We should also make it a stated goal of the United States to pursue a strategy of regime change in Iran. As the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, failure to change the Iranian regime – coupled with an influx of billions of dollars and the ability to access the global financial system due to the actions of Obama – will increase Iran’s ability to fund more terrorism in the region and elsewhere, potentially even within the United States. Even Secretary of State John Kerry admitted money from U.S. sanctions relief will end up in the hands of terrorist organizations.
Prevention of a nuclear Iran by any means necessary should be the number one priority of any administration. Our experience with North Korea should serve as an example, though not identical, of the pitfalls of inaction.  Decades of perpetual negotiation and empty statements expressing “grave concern” did not prevent Pyongyang from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  As a result, the U.S. and its allies are attempting to contain an unstable dictator with a nuclear capability.
Iran’s aggressive behavior and blatant disregard for the multinational nuclear deal has been met with substantial criticism from Obama’s political adversaries, as well as his pacifist and isolationist allies.  In an unusual move for a loyal Democratic Party in Congress, Obama’s unpopular decision to lift sanctions was met with significant opposition.  Obama should take that criticism to heart, re-impose sanctions and consider expanding them to include those nations who bankroll Iran’s terrorist activities by doing business with the regime.
What is perhaps most shocking is the president’s almost religious dedication to this agreement, particularly given the serious challenges associated with independently verifying compliance and the failures we’ve already seen in enforcing its terms.  Few, beyond members of the president’s own administration, believe that this flaccid agreement will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. A nuclear Iran would destabilize the region and set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.
An overall strategy of regime change should be put in place that contains a basket of tools, including sanctions, diplomatic pressure, restrictions on visas, support for dissident groups, covert operations and a strong military presence in the region.
America can no longer afford to coddle Iran’s hardliners, allow the rogue nation to further its nuclear ambitions, educate its technocrats, and pour billions of dollars into its bank account. With the rise of the Islamic State and other terrorist groups with ties to Muslim extremism, it is only a matter of time before nuclear weapons fall into the hands of a terrorist organization. A nuclear Iran poses a significant threat to regional stability and to American national security.
Throughout his seven years in office, this president has given away too much to Iran for nothing in return. Unfortunately, it will be up to the next administration to fix Obama’s miscalculations and mistakes.
Houlton is chief of Staff to Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) and the author of “Presidential Politics and the Ayatollah

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