With congressional votes on the Iran nuclear deal behind us, the challenge now is what comes next.
The Star Tribune’s Sept. 11 editorial (“Iran deal is a victory for global diplomacy”) correctly warns that “[t]here should be no naiveté about the nature of the theocracy ruling Iran, which has brutalized its own people and destabilized multiple Mideast countries. It’s legitimate to fear that funds from sanctions relief could be funneled to regional extremists. Accordingly, the Obama administration has offered to bolster military capabilities of Gulf allies and further strengthen the unbreakable U.S.-Israel alliance. It’s crucial to convey that acceptance of the deal does not mean acceptance of Tehran’s provocations, which is why sanctions on that behavior will remain.”
From our perspective and that of many who are deeply interested, there are several concrete measures the U.S. and our allies must take to strongly confront the still-dangerous Iranian regime and protect America’s and our allies’ security.
To begin with, we agree with former Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, a supporter of the Iran deal, that the U.S. must articulate a comprehensive strategy for confronting Iran’s support for terrorism and to prevent it from ever becoming a nuclear-weapons state.
Specifically, as Burns suggests, this means that the Obama administration should engage in coercive diplomacy with Iran to curb its growing and destructive influence in the Middle East, which, to cite just one example, includes its signature role in fueling the Syrian civil war.
Next, as has been argued by many former high-ranking Obama administration officials, most notably Ambassador Dennis Ross and Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. must now place the Iranians and the world on notice that should Iran ever race toward a nuclear weapon, this would trigger the use of American force. Ross correctly notes the critical importance of creating a “firewall” between Iran’s nuclear threshold status and becoming a state with a nuclear weapon (especially for a regime whose supreme leader recently predicted that Israel would not exist in 25 years). This firewall would authorize President Obama, as well as his successors, to use military force to thwart Iran from ever developing or acquiring a nuclear weapon. Additionally, it would establish the deterrence necessary to enforce the deal’s salient feature that “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons” in 2015, 2030 or thereafter.
The U.S. should also expedite the renewal of the U.S.-Israel military assistance agreement and guarantee Israel’s qualitative military edge over Iran and its client states and terrorist proxies. Enhancing the capabilities of the Arab Gulf States is necessary as well.
In Israel’s case, this can mean enhancing joint defense programs — a partnership effectively demonstrated in the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system that saved countless lives during last summer’s Gaza War — as well as providing promised advanced aircraft and munitions capable of deterring Iran from using its subterranean research sites to develop nuclear weapons or produce highly enriched uranium.
Burns is correct that the administration must reaffirm the U.S. commitment to our regional allies, which includes Israel and our allies in the Gulf. Along with our European and Asian allies, we must stand ready to work together and restore crippling sanctions on Iran, should Iran’s behavior warrant it.
Finally, the U.S. must take the lead in working with our allies to force Iran to end its support for the Assad regime in Syria, which is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands and the displacement of millions more.
Steve Hunegs is executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas.