Rogue in the Family of Nations

The Iran nuclear deal has firmly put Iran back in the family of nations. A rogue state no longer … even as it remains one of only three countries on earth that the US State Department still considers to be a ‘state-sponsor of terrorism’ (Syria and Sudan are the others).

US Secretary of State John Kerry has reiterated countless times that the nuclear deal is only about Iran’s nuclear program and not about terrorism. While it is true that the deal is completely silent on terrorism (and human rights violations), it is this silence that should make the international community worried. The inclusion of the one is to the ominous exclusion of the other.

By not making terrorism an issue item in the deal, has the international community effectively allowed Iran a free hand in this arena?

In giving nuclear-weapons-related sanctions relief to Iran without dealing with the second elephant in the room — terrorism — the international community has effectively told Iran that the world will turn a blind eye to such activities as long as Iran adheres to the provisions of the nuclear deal. Indeed, US officials are fully aware that a financial boost for Iran could be a boon to the global terrorism industry. US national Security Advisor, Susan Rice, admitted as much on CNN when she said that, “We should expect that some portion of that money would go to the Iranian military and could potentially be used for the kinds of bad behavior that we’ve seen in the region up until now.”  US Energy Secretary, Ernest Moniz, who advocated for the deal in his testimony at the House Foreign affairs Committee hearing last month, also admitted to these concerns just two days ago.

It is true that the US’s terrorism-related sanctions on Iran are not affected by the deal and are still in place. However, the deal has all but ended any effective sanctions regime. As governments around the world clamor to re-enter Iran’s virgin markets, Iran now really has no incentive to stop its nefarious activities. Consider the reaction by just the European nations to the deal: Germany, Italy, Greece, and the UK, are all moving quickly to ensure that they aren’t left behind in the new scramble for the Iranian currency. Switzerland didn’t even bother to wait for Iran to comply with its obligations under the deal when it announced earlier this week that it was formally lifting sanctions. France may sell warplanes to Iran, and the latter’s Foreign Minister is currently signing deals in India. Russia violated the UN travel ban on the head of Iran’s paramilitary Quds force when he flew to Moscow last month — much to the embarrassment of the Obama administration…and to the exasperation of those against the deal.

Companies are also moving quickly to ensure that they are not left behind. Even before the nuclear deal was signed, Glencore, the Swiss multinational commodity trading and mining company, which for years successfully managed to skirt sanctions and do business with Iran in the aluminum market (by bartering goods), sent in an advance team to Tehran to begin negotiations over Iranian oil. Al Arabiya News reported that, similarly, within hours of the signing of the nuclear deal, global energy conglomerates Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Eni, had all expressed interest in returning to Iran. According to reports in Tehran, Siemens, Mercedes, Volkswagen are also considering following suit. Even Boeing — an American company — is reportedly interested in doing business in Iran, helping to replace aging aircraft in Iranian aviation companies. If Boeing is allowed to make the deal, the US is effectively saying that while it wants sanctions in place, if these sanctions are actually successful and cause Iranian economic distress, its happy to drop them.

Everyone wants in. As the New York Times stated, “Before the ink was even dry on the Iran nuclear deal, European leaders and executives were heading to the airport to restart trade with an Iranian market described in almost feverish terms as ‘an El Dorado’ and potential ‘bonanza’.” Sanctions be damned.

So what is so wrong with welcoming Iran back into the international fold? Well, it is no exaggeration to make the claim that Iran is the single biggest sponsor of terrorism around the world today, creating, propagating, and funding some of the worst groups in existence; even more so than Qatar, which is essentially funding ISIS.

It’s not hard to gauge the level of terrorist activity that Iran perpetrates or sponsors around the world. According to the State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism (2013), Iran has recently  funded, armed and trained terrorists that operate globally, including in Lebanon, Israel, Gaza/West Bank, Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen. If non-Middle Eastern countries think they have been spared, they are mistaken; agents of Hezbollah (effectively the Iranian foreign legion currently destroying Lebanon and intermittently lobbying missiles at Israel) have recently been apprehended or perpetrated acts of terror in places as far afield as Bulgaria, Nigeria, Cyprus, India, Thailand and Azerbaijan.

The nuclear deal has a laudable goal (if it works…); ending the nuclear program of a rogue nation, would without a doubt, make the world a safer place. But to pit Iran’s nuclear aspirations against its terrorist activities is simply the wrong way to go about this. It tells the regime in Tehran that its illicit activities will be tolerated if it simply halts its nuclear program. The deal has effectively presented the international community with a choice: either a nuclear-armed Iran or a terrorist-supporting (and perpetrating) Iran. This harrowing choice is false and cannot stand. We cannot allow the rogue regime to continue its reign of terror for the same reason why we cannot allow it to possess nuclear arms — it’s a regime intent on destruction.

About the Author
Ari Rudolph is a political risk analyst currently working in philanthropy. Before graduating from Hebrew University with a Masters in Diplomacy and National Security, Ari served as a lone-soldier in the IDF. Over the years, Ari has lived and worked in Johannesburg, Washington, D.C., New York and Israel, where he worked at the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
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