A little over a week ago, the Supreme Court upheld an appellate court decision allowing the government to seize two billion dollars of Iranian assets on behalf of the families of the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing . More than rendering a just decision, however, the court modeled how the United States ought to engage with the Islamic Republic.
Nowadays, it’s almost clichéd to call Iran the world’s number one sponsor of state terror. With material support for Hezbollah in the Levant, Shia death squads in Iraq and even its own Quds force—which is, by the way, responsible for the murders of over 500 American servicemembers—it exports its brand of radical Islamic revolution to tragically vulnerable societies across the Middle East. The perpetual political morass in Lebanon, ceaseless bloodletting in Syria and a newly inflamed bankruptcy of stability in Yemen are all blessings of the Ayatollah’s irredeemable foreign policy.
Iranian provocations will not end until the revolutionary insecurity of the current regime is assuaged by the establishment of a Shia crescent and until the clerics feel that their ideology and political will enjoys widespread dominance throughout the region. Bankrolling terrorist organizations is only one method that Tehran uses to realize its ambitions. It feels, as do all regional bullies, that acquiring nuclear arms will make it a great power.
Despite what some in the west hailed as a victory of moderate forces in March’s parliamentary elections, a cohort of disguised conservatives assumed office under the guise of centrism. These patrons of Iran’s paramilitary branch, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, aren’t going to put an end to the Death to America chants anytime soon. Just as well, the IRGC will continue testing ballistic missiles engraved with “Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth” in both Farsi and Hebrew.
What about the nuclear deal, though? Shouldn’t the accord reached last summer at least help bring some reasonableness to these issues?
Well, the agreement does limit Iran’s access to weapons grade uranium for the next 10 to 15 years, although imperfectly. However, it does not address ballistic missile technology or support for terrorism. It dismantled the international sanctions regime that crippled Iran’s economy—while neglecting to leave in place a credibly effective option to reapply them. Oil exports are climbing, and European tycoons have begun measuring the drapes for their apartments in Tehran. All the while the administration has granted Iran billions of dollars—through an international claims tribunal and the buyback of heavy water intended for plutonium enrichment—in excess of the assets it promised to release.
This leaves us in a bind. To withdraw from the arrangement now, without the support of Iran’s newfound commercial patrons, would not only be ineffective, but also a grave foreign policy misstep. To continue the White House’s policy of accommodation, however, would be national security malpractice.
The United States must, then, pursue a whole of government approach to containing Iran. Every branch, department and institution of government must put a lid on Iran’s destructive tendencies. The treasury should continue to bar Iranian access to the dollar. Congress should pass a new set of sanctions. And the president should intervene in Syria on behalf of the moderate opposition.
Make no mistake, this is a war of wills that will transform the Middle East as we know it today. With smart policy choices, America can win.
By Jimmy Quinn