The Foreign Policy Initiative puts into context the recent event concerning a Marshall Islands ship:

The Iranian navy’s recent seizure of a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz reflects both its longstanding efforts to project power abroad and its distinct status as a symbol of Iranian might. The capture also indicates that ongoing nuclear negotiations have failed to stem Iran’s regional aggression. In fact, by treating Tehran’s belligerence as a distraction from its efforts to secure a nuclear deal, the Obama administration has undercut American influence in the region — and sent Iran the message that it can continue its aggression with relative impunity.

Indeed we already have ample evidence — from President Obama’s reluctance to topple Iran’s junior partner Bashar al-Assad and by his willingness to cede initiative on the ground in Iraq to Iran, ignoring continued threats to Israel, etc. — that desperation for an Iran accord is, at the very least, causing the administration to tolerate a great deal of behavior in the region that threatens our and our allies’ interests. As the FPI noted: In seizing the Marshall Islands-flagged ship, “Iran’s behavior suggests that it sees no contradiction between its efforts to reach a nuclear agreement and its regional hegemonic ambitions.” Iran’s conclusion is perfectly logical:

The reason is clear: The Obama administration also sees no contradiction between Tehran’s aggression and the negotiated resolution of nuclear concerns. Specifically, Washington fears that challenging Iran’s drive for regional supremacy would undermine prospects for a final agreement, and therefore has largely turned a blind eye to its brazen provocations. As White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has argued, Iran’s naval aggression simply reinforces the need to finalize a nuclear deal in order to prevent Tehran from becoming “even more destabilizing” and “even more dangerous.”
The opposite is the case. By signing an agreement that would allow Tehran to retain its nuclear infrastructure, resume all nuclear activities after 10 to 15 years, and receive sanctions relief prior to full compliance with the deal, the Obama administration would embolden the regime to continue its regional aggression, secure in the knowledge that its growing nuclear capabilities will increasingly shield it from retaliation.

If the administration insists that Iran’s non-nuclear behavior is unacceptable and not linked to the nuclear talks, there should be no problem if Congress insists on a policy to thwart Iran and, if it finds it insufficient, puts additional sanctions on Iran.

But of course the administration would balk, and we already see that Iran is mastering “linkage” — trying to intimidate the United States on other issues with the threat it will walk out of nuclear talks. The Hill reports, “Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, vowed on Wednesday that his nation would leave nuclear negotiations if it feels threatened by America’s armed forces. ‘Recently U.S. officials threatened to take military action against Iran,’ Khamenei tweeted. . . . U.S. need for the #talks – if not more – is not less than #Iran’s,’ Khamenei wrote. ‘Negotiators should observe red lines & tolerate no burden, humiliation & threat,’ he added.”

So there you have it. The Iran deal is getting worse and worse, Iran (rightly) believes Obama needs a deal more than it does and can use the prospect of a deal to neutralize U.S. influence in the region. No wonder the Gulf states are panicky and Congress wants to grab the reins on Iran policy. Left to his own devices, Obama would let Iran dominate the region and get on a glide path to a bomb — precisely what he already has done.