In the months since the Iran nuclear deal went into effect, the Obama administration has acknowledged that the behavior of the Islamist regime hasn’t changed much. The Iranians continue to act as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, test illegal ballistic missiles, threaten their neighbors, and seek regional hegemony while its leaders spewed hate at the West, the United States, and Israel. Indeed, in April, the president admitted that the Iranians were undermining “the spirit” of the pact while insisting that they were nonetheless observing the letter of the agreement. But it turns out his trust in the law-abiding nature of his negotiating partners was misplaced. A new report published by German intelligence that was backed up by a statement in the Bundestag by Chancellor Angela Merkel revealed that the Iranians have violated the letter of the deal via a clandestine effort to obtain “high-level” nuclear technology without permission from the United Nations Security Council.
The report from the German FBI—the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution spoke of Iran’s support for terrorists inside Germany including Hezbollah and Hamas. But just as alarming was the finding that Iran made at least ninety recent attempts to acquire technology for nuclear arms development. Though it claimed the majority of those attempts were thwarted by German intelligence, the agency said there was no doubt the Islamist regime would continue “its intensive procurement activities in Germany using clandestine methods to achieve its objectives.”
The implications of this report cannot be overestimated.
This means that despite all the happy talk from the United States and its Western allies about compliance with the terms of the nuclear pact, their confidence is unfounded. Instead of merely reaping the enormous benefits that have accrued to it from the ending of sanctions and waiting patiently for the pact to expire in ten years before resuming their push for a weapon, Iran has never stopped working to achieve its nuclear ambition. President Obama made concession after concession and allowed Iran to keep its nuclear infrastructure and research programs because he believed the regime wanted to “get right with the world.” But as the Germans have made clear, critics who have said all along that the president’s trust was misplaced were correct.
The facts published by the Germans can’t be viewed in isolation. That can’t be the only country where Iran is working to cheat its way to a nuclear weapon. Iran’s overseas reach is considerable both in terms of its secret intelligence operatives as well as the vast terror network that it helps orchestrate via its Hezbollah auxiliaries.
Moreover, if the German FBI knows this, it is highly likely that American intelligence also is aware of these activities. That raises questions about whether U.S. officials in the White House and the State Department that have continued to assure us that the letter of the agreement is being observed have been lying to the American people. The revelations also put President Obama’s comments in recent months about the need to encourage Iran to be more open to the world in a different light.
What action can the West take to deal with these violations?
A year ago when the president and Secretary of State John Kerry were selling the virtues of the deal to a dubious Congress and American people, they told us that sanctions would be snapped back in the event of violations. But this is highly unlikely. As deal skeptics predicted, the administration and the West are too heavily invested in the notion of détente with Iran to respond with the sort of alacrity that might impress Tehran. America’s European allies were never enthusiastic about the Iran sanctions in the first place, and the gold rush of Western businesses to Iran has created a vast constituency for continued appeasement.
Yet that should not deter Congress from taking up the issue of Iranian cheating at its earliest opportunity.
The first order of business should be to call a halt to the deal the Boeing Company has struck with Iran to sell it commercial aircraft and related goods and services. That agreement was already raising concerns on both sides of the aisle because of the possibility that companies controlled by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the entity that runs Tehran’s terror networks would be involved with Boeing. But, given the evidence of Iranian nuclear espionage, a strong message must be sent, and that should mean Congress putting a stop to the effort to allow Boeing to get into bed with terrorists. In addition to that Congress must also make it clear that it will not allow the administration to further relax sanctions or to let foreign companies use dollars to conduct business with Iran.
Just as important, this report should signal both Donald Trump—an avowed opponent of the nuclear deal—and Hillary Clinton—who supports it but didn’t take part in the negotiations and isn’t as invested in the myth of Iranian moderation as the president—that U.S. policies toward Iran must change in January. No matter the identity of the next president, President Obama’s successor must begin the work of clawing back the West’s leverage over a rogue regime that cannot be trusted and which presents a clear and present danger to world peace.