The U.S. Must Cease Letting Companies That Cooperate with the Iranian Nuclear Program Off the Hook

When the Trump administration withdrew from its 2015 agreement with Tehran, it did not immediately resume the entire battery of sanctions that the agreement had suspended. Instead, it issued a number of specific, temporary waivers. This week the State Department renewed for another 60 days one of these waivers, which blocks sanctions on the European, Russian, and Chinese corporations that operate the Islamic Republic’s supposedly civilian nuclear facilities. Jonathan Tobin criticizes this decision, apparently taken at the behest of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin:

Mnuchin is apparently more interested in good relations with the international community than in using American economic power to roll back the alarming gains Iran has made in the Middle East—gains made as a result of Barack Obama’s misguided attempt to bring about a rapprochement with Tehran.

This is a huge mistake. Richard Goldberg, [an expert on Iran sanctions], has argued that we could retain the waiver if the Europeans, Russians, and Chinese promised to “snap back” sanctions in the event that Iran violated the deal. Indeed, under the pact, these countries have pledged to hold Iran accountable. But none of them have any intention of doing so. What they want is to preserve the nuclear deal at all costs; they want to roll back President Trump’s sanctions policy, which has made it harder for the Iranians to continue funding terror.

The timing for this decision is also particularly tragic because it comes just after a public acknowledgement that Robert Levinson, a retired American intelligence operative kidnapped by Iran in 2007, died while in Iranian custody. Levinson’s disappearance is still officially unsolved—Iran has not produced his body. But Levinson’s family has recently said that the Trump administration told them that newly discovered intelligence—reportedly including intercepted Iranian communications—show that Levinson died while in Iranian hands sometime in the past several years.

Sadly, along with other U.S. concessions made during the Iran-deal negotiations, then-President Obama and then-Secretary of State John Kerry decided they would not hold up the agreement by insisting that Iran free Levinson or produce his body. The recent history of American dealings with Iran has been dominated by that kind of callous expediency. . . . Strengthening Iran by once again loosening sanctions—as Mnuchin apparently wants—out of misplaced sympathy or a desire to accommodate the Europeans or Russians won’t help anyone but the [ayatollahs].

Read more at National Review

More about: Barack Obama, Iran nuclear program, Iran sanctions, John Kerry, U.S. Foreign policy

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security