Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), stalwart critic of the Iran deal, deserves to say “I told you so.” He had suggested that sanctions would be lifted even without revealing the possible military dimensions of Iran’s program, that the inspection process (including self-selected samples) was nonsensical and that we would embolden Iran in the region to, among other things, further boost characters like Bashar al-Assad. Right on all counts.
On Monday he wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry:
The recent test launch of a precision-guided, long-range ballistic missile by Iran was a violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1929, and I appreciate public statements from both the White House and the Department of State memorializing this fact. As we discussed during your July 23 appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), UNSCR 1929 stipulates that Iran cannot presently engage in activities related to ballistic missiles.
But, with the October 11 launch, Iran has done so – on several levels – whether it is through research, development, planning, concealing or launching this reportedly new technology. And as some of my colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have pointed out in separate correspondence to you, Iran’s violations of UNSCR 1929 have become common. The Iranian regime is drawing a line in the sand that demonstrates with malice that it will only selectively meet its obligations with respect to internationally sanctioned weapons programs. What meaningful steps will the Administration take to respond to the latest Iranian provocations?
An official at a pro-Israel organization agrees with Menendez: “If Iran can get away with a flagrant violation of a UN resolution even before the deal is implemented, no one should expect any different behavior from them once they get access to the tens of billions in cash next year. This was not just a missile test, but an Iranian test of US will .”
Menendez wrote that “this is a test of American commitment and resolve, which, I believe, must be met with a decisive response in the language that Iran understands – for every action there is a consequence.” He continued: “I write to recommend to you that you use the Administration’s discretionary authority to tighten the full range of sanctions available to you to penalize Iran for violating UNSCR 1929. From your responses at the July 23 SFRC hearing, I understand that tightening sanctions for non-nuclear related infractions would not violate the terms of the Iran Nuclear Agreement, even if it were presently in its full implementation phase. The Administration should also encourage P5+1 partners to respond with similar measures. Does the Administration plan to use its current authority to tighten available sanctions against Iran?”
I suspect Kerry will do nothing, but the question is whether Democrats will once again accede to the president.
It is important to understand how we got here — and to understand Democrats’ complicity in a policy of appeasement. “During the negotiations over the Iran deal, the Obama administration created a dangerous precedent when it caved to Iranian threats to walk away from the table if new sanctions were imposed. Now the Iranian regime has made it clear in a recent letter to the UNSCR that it will treat the imposition of any sanctions, whether nuclear or not, as grounds to walk away from the JCPOA,” says sanctions guru Mark Dubowitz. “If the administration does not enforce UNSCR 1929, the resolution that explicitly forbids the recent missile test, this will only embolden the regime that it can act with absolute impunity. It is long past the time for the administration to show resolve that violations have real consequence.”
As it invariably does on each and every point of contention, the administration is going to argue that it would be “irresponsible” to walk away from the deal. After all, the alternative is war! (Never mind the intensified Syrian war or the pseudo-intifada perpetrated in Israel by Iranian-backed Hamas terrorists.) Democrats who claim to have been concerned about these very issues — enforcement, ICMBs, Iranian regional aggression — have the opportunity to show some spine. They won’t, and in 2016 they should be held accountable.