As promised, the U.S. this weekend reimposed arms sanctions on Iran. Those sanctions had been suspended by the Obama-era nuclear deal with the Iranian regime.
Not only are the sanctions back, but they are also bigger and better than ever. Here are three reasons why these sanctions are nothing short of a game-changer.
1. The sanctions are broader and more aggressive than the original prohibitions
The new injunctions cover a wider range of activities. The old sanctions applied to arms dealers doing business with Tehran. The new sanctions can be applied to individuals, companies and governments that are trying to negotiate arms deals or taking action to support negotiations. In other words, the U.S. government can be more proactive—to the point of squelching even talks selling arms to the mullahs. The new sanctions also give U.S. regulators more flexibility to ferret out and punish cheaters who try to evade the sanctions.
2. These sanctions will hold. The president’s critics can complain the sanctions are illegal
(They aren’t.) Iran can dismiss them. (Not really.) China and Russia can complain. (Pound sand.) The Europeans can whine. (What’s new?) None of that matters because companies are going to comply with the sanction. Why? Because they will find it is too painful and financially risky to do otherwise. Iran is simply not going to be able to go an arms buying binge.
3. Iran is going to be more isolated than ever
The Iranian economy continues to struggle. The regime is increasingly unpopular. The Iranian military’s readiness is increasingly eroded. Other countries in the region are turning their backs to the regime. Iran’s surrogates are under pressure. This latest round of sanctions only adds more humiliation and pressure.
Where do we go from here? Iran is increasingly desperate to break out of its isolation and deliver some payback to the U.S. administration. Yet the regime has few cards to play. An open outbreak of hostilities is too risky.
Media have reported several alleged Iranian plots to assassinate foreign officials, including the U.S. ambassador to South Africa. This sounds like the kind of cowardly act the Tehran regime just might try—a way to hurt and humiliate the U.S. without having the heinous act pinned directly on them. Such reports bring to mind the incident several years ago, when Iran tried to contract members of a Mexican cartel to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington.
As for what else the future may hold, the prospects of returning to the Iran Deal, regardless of the outcome of this year’s election, are increasingly unrealistic. There isn’t much left to go back to. Iran has committed numerous violations that can’t be whitewashed away. Abandoning sanctions now would reanimate Iranian aggression and panic the region.
It’s time to build on the momentum of nations normalizing relations with Israel. What’s needed is a cooperative regional collective security, economic and diplomatic framework, with the U.S. as a partner. This initiative would bring to the region the kind of stability and economic integration it has long needed.
A prosperous, stable Middle East is the ultimate deterrent against Iranian aggression. It would be the heaviest weight possible for pressing the regime to adopt more reasonable policies toward its neighbors and to abandon once and for all its ill-conceived nuclear weapons program.