Yesterday, the State Department issued its annual report on international terrorism and the results are both alarming and unsurprising. Of particular interest is the section on state sponsors of terrorism. On the list as the worst offenders are Sudan, Syria and Iran. The details about Iranian state sponsored terrorism are particularly sobering. It backs terrorists who are aiding the Assad regime’s brutal crackdown in Syria as well as providing funding and arms for Hezbollah and Palestinian terror groups. Just as damning is the fact that State says Iran continues to refuse to bring senior al Qaeda figures to justice or to identify those in their custody. The report also restates the widely reported fact that Iran “continued to be in noncompliance with its international obligations regarding its nuclear program.” But unless the Obama administration grows a spine and changes its policies within weeks the United States will sign a nuclear deal with Tehran that will soon result in a vast windfall of cash falling into Iran’s hands. Yet nowhere in the nuclear framework agreement is there any promise, however lacking in credibility, that Iran will foreswear the same activities that the State Department just reported and which, by U.S. law, ought to mandate continued sanctions rather than an end to restrictions on doing business with the Islamist regime.
The State Department report is quite clear on what the law demands from the government as to its policy toward state sponsors of terror:
A wide range of sanctions are imposed as a result of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, including:
- A ban on arms-related exports and sales;
- Controls over exports of dual-use items, requiring 30-day Congressional notification for goods or services that could significantly enhance the terrorist-list country’s military capability or ability to support terrorism;
- Prohibitions on economic assistance; and
Imposition of miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.
It should be recalled that during the Congressional debate over the Corker-Cardin bill that the administration was adamant that any approval of the impending Iran deal should not be conditioned as Tehran ceasing its terrorist activities. We now see why. As the State Department reports makes clear, Iran has done nothing to step back from its role as world’s leading state sponsor of terror.
Iran’s role in Syria plays a key part of the report. Iran’s role in sending Hezbollah cadres into Syria has been widely reported and Tehran has even admitted that it has sent members of its own Revolutionary Guard Corps into Syria to act as advisors to those carrying out mass slaughter of civilians and dissidents. But just as interesting is the State Department’s assertion that Iran has equipped, trained and funded Iraqi and Afghan fighters who have been sent into that country to help suppress opposition to the Assad regime.
Iran is also a primary obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians because of its funding and arms supplies funneled to terror groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Iran had previously been a primary supporter of Hamas but broke with the rulers of the independent Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza over differences on Syria. But now that Iran and Assad appear to be in no danger and short of money and arms after last summer’s war, Hamas appears to have come back into Tehran’s good graces. But even during their split, Iran was still doing its best to keep other radicals so as to ensure that Palestinian leaders are too afraid to make peace with Israel even if they wanted to do so.
But in spite of this activity reported by its own State Department, there is little doubt that the administration is bound and determined to go ahead and sign a nuclear deal with Iran. The agreement will almost certainly ensure that the Islamist regime will have all the cash it needs to keep funding terror and perhaps even up the ante with regard to groups threatening Israel or moderate Arab governments. Given Iran’s need for economic sanctions to be lifted, the U.S. ought to have plenty of leverage over the ayatollahs. But as with the nuclear negotiations, Western negotiators have simply acquiesced to Iran being allowed to carry on with its state sponsorship of terror in order to get them to sign a deal. Just as the U.S. has caved in on finding out about Iran’s military research, its right to enrich uranium, its possession of thousands of centrifuges and even putting a time limit on the deal, the administration has also ignored the issue of terrorism.
This raises interesting legal questions since Congress will be within its rights to demand to know how the U.S. can lift sanctions on Iran and thereby giving its economy an enormous shot in the arm while simultaneously branding it as a state sponsor of terrorism. The answer is that this administration has punted on its responsibility to act against Iranian-backed terror just as it has bailed on its duty to stop Tehran from getting Western approval for becoming a threshold nuclear power.
The administration has made concession after concession on nuclear issues but on terror, it hasn’t even tried to get Iran to “get right with the world” as President Obama hopes it will.
By itself, this report ought to stand as a damning indictment of the administration’s conduct during the nuclear talks. It also should be held as sufficient, even without the copious evidence that the nuclear deal is too weak to stop Iran from either cheating its way to a bomb or waiting patiently for the pact to expire before getting a weapon, as a reason for the proposed nuclear deal to be rejected by Congress.