Weakness: Under Iranian Pressure, US Backs Away From New Sanctions Over Illegal Missile Tests

Guy Benson
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Posted: Jan 05, 2016 4:14 PM
Weakness: Under Iranian Pressure, US Backs Away From New Sanctions Over Illegal Missile Tests

Since the Obama administration struck its reckless and unpopular nuclear accord with the anti-American, terrorism-sponsoring regime in Tehran, the Iranians have violated international law -- including, some argue, the nuclear agreement itself -- by test firing illegal ballistic missiles. Twice. Secretary of State John Kerry had already assured the Iranians that they wouldn't vitiate the broader deal by doing so, thus emboldening the regime to press the limits of the West's patience. In its failed attempt to sell the agreement to Congress, the Obama administration insisted that the document (which they now say was never formally signed and isn't legally binding) would not impede the United States' ability to sanction Iran for malfeasance pertaining to "unrelated" issues, such as abusing human rights, meddling in the region, or breaching arms restrictions. In the face of Tehran's flagrant provocations and amid a bipartisan outcry on Capitol Hill, the White House indicated last week that it was preparing to slap new sanctions on Iran over its rogue missile tests.  Iran sharply objected, unsurprisingly, claiming that such an action would represent an American contravention of the nuclear deal.  The regime also ordered its military to "expedite development of the country’s ballistic missile program in response to new U.S. sanctions set to be imposed on Iranian defense companies," according to the Wall Street Journal.  The Obama administration responded to this outright defiance by...indefinitely delaying its planned action.  The punt came on New Year's Eve:

The White House has delayed its plan to impose new financial sanctions on Iran for its ballistic missile program, according to U.S. officials, amid growing tensions with Iran over the nuclear deal struck earlier this year. The officials said the Obama administration remains committed to combating Iran’s missile program and that sanctions being developed by the U.S. Treasury Department remain on the table. They also said imposing such penalties was legal under the landmark nuclear agreement forged between global powers and Iran in July. U.S. officials offered no definitive timeline for when the sanctions would be imposed after the decision was made Wednesday to delay them.

Iran pushed the envelope, hard.  The US grumbled and vowed to retaliate with wrist slaps.  Iran protested, loudly.  The US backed off.  Another humiliation.  The Obama administration has demonstrated a willingness to countenance all sorts of illegal conduct by Iran in the name of maintaining its terrible nuclear agreement.  The mullahs in Tehran are fully aware of this dynamic and are routinely probing the extent of their potent leverage.  By threatening to destroy Obama's geopolitical legacy project, the Iranians have discovered that they can extract even more concessions from the United States -- as they recently did in response to Congress' visa new waiver law.  Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are slamming this latest capitulation, which the White House murkily insists may only be temporary:

Top congressional lawmakers slammed the delay, arguing that such moves would undermine the US ability to implement the July 14 2015, nuclear agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). “I believe in the power of vigorous enforcement that pushes back on Iran’s bad behavior,” Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, said Friday. “If we don’t do that, we invite Iran to cheat.”

Coons was a supporter of the nuclear agreement who joined Harry Reid's filibuster to deprive Congress of any ability to vote on the deal -- which may explain why he believes Iran needs an invitation to cheat. The regime habitually cheats.  That's a long-established fact, ignored only by the willfully blind.  House Speaker Paul Ryan calls the administration's delay "a fitting end to a year of disastrous foreign policy decisions."  Presidential candidate Marco Rubio has written a column in National Review forcefully rebuking Obama for allowing Iran to "push around" the United States.  And Sen. Pat Toomey and former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge teamed up to pen an op/ed meticulously outlining Iran's myriad affronts and violations since the nuclear deal was agreed upon and calling on the administration to keep all Iran sanctions in place.  After laying out a series of damning bullet points, they conclude:

It is long past time for the president to acknowledge the obvious: Iran is in serial violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions mandated by the JCPOA itself. These violations threaten our national security interests and those of our allies. The Iranian regime has lied to U.S. and Western negotiators for years, including throughout the JCPOA negotiations, and demonstrated no softening of its hostility toward the United States. In fact, the regime continues to arrest and convict American citizens on fabricated political charges. Most importantly, there is no real agreement — no meeting of the minds and no legally binding document. For the president to ignore more than 35 years of reality — dating back to the hostage crisis in 1979 right up to the Iranian arrogance of the past several months — and prepare to lift the sanctions is worse than foolish; it is extremely dangerous. Iran has repeatedly abandoned its political commitments. Why should we consider its actions to be anything other than in bad faith? We urge the president to reconsider the path he is on, before it is too late. He should not surrender to the fear of losing a so-called political legacy and must maintain the sanctions on Iran.

Before you go, be sure to re-read the Washington Post's hard-hitting, pre-postponement editorial on Obama's Iran weakness; also, don't miss Eli Lake and Josh Rogin's important report on the growing alarm and discontent among America's Arab state allies vis-a-vis Iran, the nuclear deal, and the rising tensions with Saudi Arabia.  Roughly one year from now, Team Smart Power will no longer control the levers of American foreign policy -- unless, of course, voters choose to grant a promotion to the architect of Obama's utterly failed foreign policy.