American Self-Delusion about Iran Continues

March 11, 2016 | Elliott Abrams
About the author: Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and is the chairman of the Tikvah Fund.

Two of the most important arguments made in favor of the nuclear deal with Iran were that it would strengthen that country’s so-called moderates and that it would allow the West to monitor the Islamic Republic’s nuclear activities more closely. Actually, Elliott Abrams contends, the events of the past few weeks alone have demonstrated the wrongheadedness of both arguments, and the capacity of the deal’s defenders for wishful thinking:

[The] charade [of moderates’ success in Iranian elections] has in fact worked well, producing headline after headline in the Western media about “reformist” victories. You can fool most of the people some of the time, or at least most of the people who have a strong desire to be fooled—because they wish to protect the nuclear deal and its authors.

Iran’s conduct certainly suggests radicalization rather than moderation, and the past weeks have seen repeated ballistic-missile tests. Ballistic missiles are not built and perfected in order to carry 500-pound “dumb” bombs; they are used to carry nuclear weapons. So Iran’s continued work on them suggests that it has never given up its nuclear ambitions, not even briefly for the sake of appearances. . . .

Two missiles were test-fired . . . with the phrase “Israel must be wiped out” written on them. These tests violate UN Security Council resolutions, but the American reaction is cautious: a speech, a debate in New York, perhaps some sanctions, but nothing that could possibly lead Iran to undo the nuclear deal. Because Iran knows that this will be the Obama administration’s reaction, expect more and more ballistic-missile tests. Expect more conduct like the interception, capture, and humiliation of American sailors in the Gulf. Expect more Iranian military action throughout the region.

Some moderation. . . .

Are we . . . gaining unparalleled insight into the Iranian nuclear program? . . . The International Atomic Energy Agency’s February 26 report was its first since the nuclear deal went into effect, and lacked details on matters such as uranium stockpiles, production of certain centrifuge parts, and progress by Iran toward meeting safeguard obligations. . . . The deal was sold, in part, as a way of providing transparency, but that does not appear to be accurate: it may in fact legitimize opacity.

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