By: Ambassador Adam Ereli
The Hill, Oct. 3, 2017 - Two years into the nuclear deal with Iran — known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — it has become clear that neither the people of Iran nor the region are better off.
The previous administration’s policy of engagement failed to address rampant human rights violations, regional aggression, a burgeoning missile program and the export of terrorism, all of which are crippling Iran’s own population.
President Trump came into office as a force of change; here are five ways he can change Washington’s culture of politics as usual and respond positively to the long-suffering Iranian people’s call for change:
1. Protect Pro-Democracy Iranians
In signing the JCPOA, the P5+1 (namely the UN Security Council's five permanent members, plus Germany) opted to trust a regime that boasts of deceiving the West, rather than the Iranian people, who are generally acknowledged to be pro-western and anti-regime. President Trump acknowledged this in his remarks this September to the UN General Assembly:
“The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran's people are what their leaders fear the most. This is what causes the regime to restrict internet access, tear down satellite dishes, shoot unarmed student protesters, and imprison political reformers.”
Instead of protecting Iran’s people, the JCPOA ignores their aspirations and suffering at a terrible cost. The deal does nothing to slow rampant arrests and mass executions, not to mention the regime’s continuing concealment of its nuclear facilities. Let's stop giving the mullah’s a free pass to murder the Iranian people.
2. Challenge Iranian Meddling
The JCPOA did nothing to deter the violence, terror and displacement that Iran exports to its neighbors. In the two years since signing the JCPOA, the P5+1 have turned a blind eye to the expansion of Iranian influence in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon. Western credibility with its regional allies has suffered as a result; the prospects with a host of regional actors have increased; and the Iranian regime has been emboldened. An agreement that ignores Iran’s extraterritorial incursions, chemical weapons and terrorism isn’t an agreement; it’s capitulation.
3. Get Tough on Ballistic Missiles
An essential element of any nuclear program is the ability to deliver a warhead via ballistic missiles. While the JCPOA was able to pause projects related to the nuclear fuel cycle for 10 (now eight) years, ballistic missile testing was left unchecked.
President Trump has addressed the ongoing development of Iran's missile program, saying, “We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides for the eventual construction of a nuclear program.”
4. Stop Funding the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)
The JCPOA released billions of dollars in frozen assets to Iran and opened the door to deals worth billions more. The IRGC and its Quds Force, Iran’s weapons of choice in spreading terror, control a financial empire comprising easily 40 percent of Iran’s total economy. An estimated 80 percent of the profits of newly signed deals will directly benefit the ruling regime, not the Iranian people, with the Quds Force as perhaps the biggest winner.
Last August, Congress overwhelmingly passed H.R. 3364, which subjected the IRGC to sanctions under Executive Order 13224 issued by President George W. Bush. The United States should immediately and strictly enforce this legislation, with zero tolerance of any violations.
5. Get Serious About Regime Change
Iran will remain a threat to the U.S. and its allies as long as the clerical regime remains in power. If the United States is serious about changing Iranian behavior, it has to consider changing the regime. Secretary of State Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Mattis have publicly spoken about U.S. policy moving in this direction.
Key U.S. regional partners are also increasingly outspoken on this issue. Saudi Arabia, the Syrian opposition, Egypt, Yemen and the Palestinian Authority all sent official delegations to a gathering of around 100,000 supporters of the Iranian opposition in Paris. In his remarks to the gathering, former Saudi Intelligence Chief and Ambassador to the United States Prince Turki bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz al Saud said, “The behavior of the regime in Tehran does not make it a democratic system, but a murderous dictatorship.”
He called on all sectors of Iranian society to free themselves from the rule of Velayat-e Faqih (theocratic despotism). President Trump’s reference to the “murderous regime” in Tehran that “cannot endure forever,” was spot-on.
If President Trump is looking for genuine change, the circumstances are ripe and the time is now.
Ambassador Adam Ereli was the U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain and deputy State Department spokesperson during the Bush administration.