Oh, lord. Here we go.
One of the biggest lies force fed to Western audiences is that Iran is “the world’s number one state sponsor of terror.”
How many times have you heard that line? A lot, right? Well, there are any number of things wrong with that assessment.
First, it’s not entirely clear what it means. While I’m sure those who push that line have some data they’ll point to, and while Hezbollah will invariably be trotted out as “proof,” and while the Quds Force will always be presented as “Exhibit A,” the fact of the matter is that the “biggest global state sponsor of terror” label is a lot like Donald Trump’s “China is the grand master at currency manipulation” shtick. It’s an amorphous assertion that’s impossible to prove.
Second – and more importantly – the notion that Tehran and not Riyadh is the problem when it comes Islamic terror is absurd in the extreme. For instance, there are clear differences between Hezbollah and extremist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS. And I don’t just mean in terms of which side of the sectarian divide they fall on. No, Hezbollah isn’t exactly a tour de force for peace in the world, but to equate them with the Sunni extremist groups funded and sponsored by Riyadh and the other Sunni powers is apples-to-oranges. Sorry, but it is. Along these same lines, consider the following out this morning from Reuters:
Saudi Arabia’s two largest listed banks were the main drag on the index on Sunday on news that U.S. insurers have filed a lawsuit against the lenders over the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Shares of Al Rajhi Bank dropped 2.3 percent and, National Commercial Bank (NCB) lost 2.4 percent after the lawsuit was filed late on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, by more than two dozen U.S. insurers affiliated with Travelers Cos, in the latest effort to hold entities in Saudi Arabia liable for the attacks.
The two banks, and companies affiliated with Osama bin Laden’s family and several charities are being sued for at least $4.2 billion.
Are you picking up what I’m laying down here?
True, Iran does back the regime in Damascus. That would be the same regime that has a nasty habit of gassing children. And, as I detailed last week in “As Trump Ponders 50,000 Troops In Syria, Here’s A Little Perspective On ISIS,” Hezbollah has indeed served as the de facto Syrian army at times when Bashar al-Assad’s forces were too depleted and too hapless to continue their multi-front war against Sunni insurgents.
But again, think for a moment about who it is that Iran’s proxy armies (Hezbollah and a confederation of Shiite militias in Iraq) are fighting. They’re fighting the same Sunni extremists that have carried out attacks on the West. And while you can argue about the extent to which Saudi Arabia was directly responsible for 9-11, what you can’t do is argue about the extent to which the Saudis and the region’s other Sunni powers have served either directly or indirectly as a source of funding and ideological support for all manner of extremist movements. Just ask the late Zahran Alloush (well, I mean he’s dead, so you can’t really ask him, but you get the point).
So I guess it kind of comes down to whether you think actions speak louder than words. Yes, the Ayatollah has a penchant for Kim Jong-Un-ish hyperbole when it comes to wishing death upon America, but don’t forget that Sunni extremists have actually brought death to America. So you know… me or your lyin’ eyes?
All of the above comes with the usual caveat/disclaimer: attempts to analyze anything to do with the sectarian divide are doomed to inadequacy, are almost certain to be riddled with errors, and will invariably fall woefully short of anything that even approximates the word “comprehensive.” That applies to my own analysis.
Additionally, you’d be remiss not to appreciate and sympathize with the plight of Israel which is of course threatened by Iran and Hezbollah. And “threatened” is clearly an understatement.
That said, the following WSJ Op-ed by Michael Oren, Israel’s deputy minister for diplomacy, that appeared in the Saturday print edition is misleading on all kinds of levels and should be treated as such.
The U.S. has signed agreements with three rogue regimes strictly limiting their unconventional military capacities. Two of those regimes—Syria and North Korea—brazenly violated the agreements, provoking game-changing responses from President Trump. But the third agreement—with Iran—is so inherently flawed that Tehran doesn’t even have to break it. Honoring it will be enough to endanger millions of lives.
The framework agreements with North Korea and Syria, concluded respectively in 1994 and 2013, were similar in many ways. Both recognized that the regimes already possessed weapons of mass destruction or at least the means to produce them. Both assumed that the regimes would surrender their arsenals under an international treaty and open their facilities to inspectors. And both believed that these repressive states, if properly engaged, could be brought into the community of nations.
All those assumptions were wrong. After withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Pyongyang tested five atomic weapons and developed intercontinental missiles capable of carrying them. Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, less than a year after signing the framework, reverted to gassing his own people. Bolstered by the inaction of the U.S. and backed by other powers, North Korea and Syria broke their commitments with impunity.
Or so it seemed. By ordering a Tomahawk missile attack on a Syrian air base, and a U.S. Navy strike force to patrol near North Korea’s coast, the Trump administration has upheld the frameworks and placed their violators on notice. This reassertion of power is welcomed by all of America’s allies, Israel among them. But for us, the most dangerous agreement of all is the one that may never need military enforcement. For us, the existential threat looms in a decade, when the agreement with Iran expires.
Like the frameworks with North Korea and Syria, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action of 2015 assumed that Iran would fulfill its obligations and open its facilities to inspectors. The JCPOA assumed that Iran would moderate its behavior and join the international community. Yet unlike its North Korean and Syrian allies, Iran was the largest state sponsor of terror and openly vowed to destroy another state—Israel. Unlike them, Iran systematically lied about its unconventional weapons program for 30 years. And unlike Damascus and Pyongyang, which are permanently barred from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, Tehran can look forward to building them swiftly and legitimately in the late 2020s, once the JCPOA expires.
This, for Israel and our neighboring Sunni states, is the appalling flaw of the JCPOA. The regime most committed to our destruction has been granted a free pass to develop military nuclear capabilities. Iran could follow the Syrian and North Korean examples and cheat. Or, while enjoying hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, it can adhere to the agreement and deactivate parts of its nuclear facilities rather than dismantle them. It can develop new technologies for producing atomic bombs while testing intercontinental ballistic missiles. It can continue massacring Syrians, Iraqis and Yemenis, and bankrolling Hamas and Hezbollah. The JCPOA enables Iran to do all that merely by complying.
A nuclear-armed Iran would be as dangerous as “50 North Koreas,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the U.N. in 2013, and Iran is certainly many times more dangerous than Syria. Yet Iran alone has been granted immunity for butchering civilians and threatening genocide. Iran alone has been guaranteed a future nuclear capability. And the Iranian regime—which brutally crushed a popular uprising in 2009—has amassed a million-man force to suppress any future opposition. Rather than moderating, the current regime promises to be more radical yet in another 10 years.
How can the U.S. and its allies pre-empt catastrophe? Many steps are possible, but they begin with penalizing Iran for the conventions it already violates, such as U.N. restrictions on missile development. The remaining American sanctions on Iran must stay staunchly in place and Congress must pass further punitive legislation. Above all, a strong link must be established between the JCPOA and Iran’s support for terror, its pledges to annihilate Israel and overthrow pro-American Arab governments, and its complicity in massacres. As long as the ayatollahs oppress their own population and export their tyranny abroad, no restrictions on their nuclear program can ever be allowed to expire.
In responding forcibly to North Korean and Syrian outrages, President Trump has made a major step toward restoring America’s deterrence power. His determination to redress the flaws in the JCPOA and to stand up to Iran will greatly accelerate that process. The U.S., Israel and the world will all be safer.