Obama should pursue sanctions against Iran

January 19, 2016
Published 12:00 am, Sunday, January 17, 2016

Iran successfully tested medium-range ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads on Oct. 10 and Nov. 21. The president’s response? Silence.

These tests clearly violated the June 2010 U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929 and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, negotiated by the president in 2015. A return of sanctions is warranted, and delaying sanctions will embolden Iran to further push the envelope and delegitimize the international governing body in the process. Iran’s actions not only gamble with global stability but pose a direct threat to U.S. national security.

Whenever Iran conducts testing on ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, its goal is the ability to deploy nuclear weapons more reliably and accurately. The world must look at these tests as seriously as it did Iran’s uranium enrichment program.

If we do not enforce consequences, Iran will continue violating Security Council resolutions. Immediately after the administration’s failure to respond to the previous violations, Iran unveiled a bunker underground it was using to store its latest Emad ballistic missiles.

This corresponds with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s letter to Iran’s defense minister on Dec. 31 explaining that Iran will not tolerate any limits to its ballistic missile program. Let’s stop kidding ourselves — Iran has no intention of curbing its ability to threaten those it considers its adversaries.

An “almost-nuclear” adversary that does not respect the international governing body is a threat to our national security. Not only are we allowing a greedy state to inch closer to nuclear capability, but we are encouraging other countries like Russia to stretch the limits of their actions around the globe. Additionally, every time we back down from an adversary’s confrontational posture, we lose the credibility to support and defend our allies around the world.

Look no further than North Korea’s reported nuclear test this month. They see Iran gaining legitimacy on the world stage through strength and recognize that this administration is unwilling to increase accountability on nuclear proliferation. This policy of “speaking softly and not carrying a big stick” is not only severely damaging our world leadership and negotiating power but is making the world a more dangerous place where our allies are losing confidence and our enemies are emboldened.

Why is the administration delaying sanctions implementation? Unfortunately, the only explanation is political. The JCPOA is something Secretary of State John Kerry and President Barack Obama are hoping to leave as part of their legacies. They seek to avoid actions on Iran that could jeopardize the nuclear deal’s “success.”

The problem is that success for this administration is a political legacy, regardless of the strategic relevancy. They want a deal that does not unravel, not one that actually prevents Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

The White House is betting that the illegal ballistic missile tests will be overlooked. Divisive domestic policies like the president’s executive orders on gun purchases play well into the partisan rhetoric that distracts voters. The logic makes sense: why should Obama jeopardize his legacy deal with Iran when the illegal testing and lack of sanctions can get lost in the presidential election frenzy?

Here is an answer: As the president of the United States you take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the laws of the United States. The world relies on the United States to maintain a stable global order and to preserve the legitimacy of world governing bodies. History has presented us with similar scenarios, and we know how they play out. As idealistic as I want to be about the power of diplomacy, we simply cannot ignore the harsh reality of the way geopolitics works.