In reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran last summer, the United States knew that it was not dealing with a friendly country. It was clear that Iran is governed by a revolutionary, hegemonic regime, hostile to the West and Israel. It is a country that, despite its protests to the contrary, was aiming to develop nuclear weapons.
That’s presumably why the United States and its allies thought that getting Iran to commit to restrain its nuclear ambitions was so important. And it might be why the Obama administration is ignoring Iran’s recent provocations until Iran implements its side of the deal.
But Iran’s provocations, as well as information concerning its past misdeeds, seem to increase by the day. Last week, it was revealed that Iran hacked into a New York dam’s electronic controls in 2013. And since the agreement was reached, Iran has conducted two ballistic missile launches, one in October and one in November, both in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution. According to Iran’s defense minister, the purpose for the launches was “to tell the world that the Islamic Republic of Iran acts based on its national interests and no country or power can impose its will on us.”
Turning a blind eye to Iranian provocation only seems to lead to more misbehavior. That can’t be good. The administration, along with its allies, would be wise to put pressure on Iran to curtail its aggressiveness. And Iran might listen, since the nuclear agreement is in its interest as well. Not only does it free up some $100 billion in frozen funds, it also opens numerous international trade opportunities for Iran, which had been closed before the deal.
But very little of that seems to have been done. Instead, Iran seems to be acting with impunity as it continues its bellicose threats against Israel. For example, Iran blamed pressure from the “Zionist lobby” and other “currents” for changes in the U.S. visa waiver program that would exempt those who visited Iran, Sudan, Syria and Iraq from the program, meaning they would have to apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy abroad in order to visit here. And this all occurred just as there was more confirmation that Iran was responsible for a 1994 bombing that killed 85 people at a Buenos Aires Jewish center.
While it is unlikely that the United States is totally ignoring Iranian provocation and mounting evidence of past misdeeds, it does appear that the administration is showing much more tolerance for Iranian misbehavior in an attempt to ensure nuclear compliance. We have doubts as to whether that approach will work. But, even if we are wrong, it is clear that Iran will go as far as the international community allows it to go. If that’s the case, now is the time for the West to push back.