Assuming that Hillary Clinton will not find some last-ditch bit of Clintonesque chicanery that will put her in the White House after all, Donald Trump will likely be inaugurated President come January 20, and he will have an ultimatum waiting for him. The Ayatollah Khamenei warned the day before Thanksgiving that if the U.S. dared to extend sanctions on Iran, the Islamic Republic would retaliate. President-elect Trump, meanwhile, has vowed to cancel the deal altogether, which would almost certainly include restored and new sanctions. Who will blink first?
The House of Representatives already set the confrontation on course last week, when it re-authorized the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) for ten years. This was an almost entirely symbolic move, however, as the ISA will expire at the end of this year unless the Senate approves it and Barack Obama signs it, and Obama is about as likely to do that as he is to put on a Make America Great Again cap.
Indeed, Obama continues to be notoriously protective of the Iran deal. The known elements of the deal are bad enough, as I explain in my book "The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Iran." But the secret codicils just keep making things worse, and administration officials continue to appear determined that they not leak out to the public.
Investigative journalist Adam Kredo reported last Tuesday that “senior Obama administration officials in their final days in office are seeking to cover up key details of the Iran nuclear deal from Congress, according to documents and sources who spoke to the Washington Free Beacon about continued efforts by the White House to block formal investigations into secret diplomacy with Tehran that resulted in a $1.7 billion cash payment by the United States.”
As far as Khamenei was concerned, Obama’s obvious anxiousness to keep the mullahs happy was all for show. He proclaimed: “The current U.S. government has breached the nuclear deal in many occasions.”
In reality, Iran is the one breaching the agreement: recently, according to Reuters, the International Atomic Energy Agency revealed that Iran had “exceeded a soft limit on sensitive material set under its nuclear deal with major powers.”
This was “the second time Tehran has surpassed the 130 metric tonne threshold for heavy water, a material used as a moderator in reactors like Iran’s unfinished one at Arak, since the deal was put in place in January.”
The Obama State Department’s response was feeble: it was all just an accident, you see. State spokesman Mark Toner put the best face on things that he could, confusing impunity with good faith and insisting: “It’s important to note that Iran made no effort to hide this, hide what it was doing from the IAEA.”
This ongoing Obama administration solicitude for Iran may have fostered complacency in Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who boasted right after the election that there was no chance of Trump rolling back the deal. “Iran’s understanding in the nuclear deal,” Rouhani explained, “was that the accord was not concluded with one country or government but was approved by a resolution of the UN Security Council and there is no possibility that it can be changed by a single government….The United States no longer has the capacity to create Iranophobia and to create a consensus against Iran. The constructive engagement policies of Iran towards the world, and the fact that international sanctions have been lifted, have placed the Iranian economy on a road where there is no possibility of going backwards.”
Khamenei was apparently a bit less certain that it would be all smooth sailing from here on out, as he felt compelled to add a threat: “The latest is extension of sanctions for 10 years, that if it happens, would surely be against JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the official name of the Iran nuclear deal], and the Islamic Republic would definitely react to it.”
It remains to be seen whether President-elect Trump will take such threats seriously enough to back off on his pledge to “rip up” the Iranian nuclear deal.
It is certain, however, that if he is serious about restoring America’s national security and standing in the world, he will not be able to afford to continue Obama’s policies of ignoring Iranian breaches of the agreement and showering upon them all manner of largesse.
It will either be no deal with Iran and a secure America, or a deal with Iran and continued appeasement and weakness in response to enemies who have vowed to destroy us. This is one swamp in dire need of draining.