Unfortunately, we are now taking the opposite approach. While the JCPOA has not altered Iran’s ambitions, it has made the Obama administration even more eager to avoid confronting Iran, checking its ambitions and responding to provocations such as the ballistic missile tests. The administration rejects sanctions for illegal missile tests, human rights violations, regional aggression and sponsorship of terrorism for fear of losing the deal. In short, we are paralyzed, afraid to assert our national interests while Iran is emboldened.
Neither of the two parties’ presidential front-runners wants to rip up the Iran deal. Hillary Clinton, however, recently said she supports sanctions against Iran for its missile tests. She would be wise to sketch out a “a broader strategy to confront Iran’s bad behavior in the region,” as she put it in a speech in September 2015. She vowed:
I will build a coalition to counter Iran’s proxies, particularly Hezbollah. . . . Beyond Hezbollah, I’ll crack down the shipment of weapons to Hamas and push Turkey and Qatar to end their financial support. I’ll press our partners in the region to prevent aircraft and ships owned by companies linked to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard from entering their territories and urge our partners to block Iranian planes from entering their airspace on their way to Yemen and Syria. Across the board, I will vigorously enforce and strengthen if necessary the American sanctions on Iran and its Revolutionary Guard for its sponsorship of terrorism, its ballistic missile program, and other destabilizing activities. I’ll enforce and strengthen if necessary our restrictions on sending arms to Iran and from Iran, to bad actors like Syria. And I’ll impose these sanctions on everyone involved in these activities, whether they’re in Iran or overseas. This will be a special imperative as some of the U.N. sanctions lapse, so the U.S. and our partners have to step up. . . .I’ll stand, as I always have, against Iran’s abuses of home, from its detention of political prisoners to its crackdown on freedom of expression, including online. Its inhumane policies hold back talented and spirited people. Our quarrel is not and never has been with the Iranian people. They’d have a bright future, a hopeful future if they weren’t held back by their leaders. As I’ve said before, I think we were too restrained in our support of the protests in June 2009, and in our condemnation of the government crackdown that followed. That won’t happen again.
If sincere, that approach shows promise, and Republicans and Democrats alike should be vigilant and insistent that Clinton’s rhetoric turns into concrete policy actions if she is elected. As for Donald Trump, don’t expect anything resembling a coherent plan from the man who wants Iran’s strongest ally, Bashar al-Assad, to remain in place.
With a new president comes the opportunity for candor about Iran, its objectives and our commitment to stopping nuclear proliferation, regional aggression, mass human rights atrocities and the spread of jihadist terror. That means, however, that the next president has to be clear-eyed, informed and determined. Since Trump is none of those things, we should hope Clinton or an alternative third candidate is.