There is little doubt that Barack Obama deems the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) of July 2015 to be his crowning foreign policy achievement and an important pillar of his presidential legacy. To his mind, the deal is a shining nonproliferation success story achieved via peaceful diplomacy and an important catalyst to improving decades-long, moribund U.S.-Iranian relations.
But, Obama’s assessment is wrong. The JCPOA has many flaws and weaknesses, and it is important to assess the president’s role in the process that produced this dubious deal: What happened on the ground; how Obama’s perceptions of nuclear disarmament colored his attitudes toward Iran, and the tactics he used to marginalize criticism and mobilize support for a flawed deal at the domestic level. It is equally important to examine to what lengths the president went in order to protect his problematic deal after it was presented, and at what cost. What legacy on Iran has Obama left for the next administration?
The Road to the JCPO
In early April 2009, shortly after entering the White House, Obama made his first major foreign policy speech in Prague where he unveiled his agenda for advancing the goal of global nuclear disarmament. While his initial steps in this direction were taken primarily at the global level, in autumn 2009—after Tehran had been caught red-handed constructing a hidden enrichment facility at Fordow—Obama made his first attempt to conclude a partial nuclear agreement with Iran in the context of a “fuel deal” offered by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany (P5+1). The offer was that 75-80 percent of Iran’s then-stockpile of low enriched uranium would be shipped abroad and turned into the fuel plates that the Iranians said they needed to run the civilian Tehran Research Reactor.
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Iran has built a third underground ballistic missile production factory and will keep developing its missile program, the semi-official Fars news agency reported today, Thursday, according to Reuters.
“Iran’s third underground factory has been built by the Guards in recent years … We will continue to further develop our missile capabilities energetically,” Fars quoted the head of the Republican Guard’s airspace division, Amirali Hajizadeh, as saying.
Since taking office in January, U.S. President Donald Trump has put Tehran “on notice” by imposing new sanctions in response to Iran’s recent missile launches.
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Pyongyang’s test on Sunday of a new ballistic missile highlights its cooperation with Iran on missile development — leaving the Tehran regime vulnerable to further sanctions should the UN decide to act, a leading North Korea expert told The Algemeiner on Monday.
Anthony Ruggiero – a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) think tank and former State Department official — said that the blanket prohibition on weapons trade with North Korea, agreed to by the UN Security Council in March 2016 following a nuclear test carried out by the Pyongyang regime, meant Iranian individuals and entities already sanctioned by the US government could face further sanctions imposed by the UN.
“The Iran-North Korea missile relationship was so concerning to the Obama administration that they designated Iranian officials [for sanctions] for it the day after the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA),” Ruggiero said. “It certainly wasn’t what they wanted to do, just as the deal was being implemented, so that gives you a sense of the seriousness of this issue.”
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Iran and its Islamist regime is currently making a major effort to expand its footprint in Canada. Their aim is to use American’s northern neighbour as a “forward operating base” for influence operations against the American government. In a recent video, Hassan Abbasi, a leadership figure in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was boasting about a “guerilla movement of Iranian agents living and working in the United States.” Iran, he says, is leading a clandestine army of potential martyrs within the US.
This does not seem to be an isolated event. Iranian diplomat Hamid Mohammadi said in 2012 there were many Iranian-Canadians “working in influential government positions” and called on others to “occupy high-level and key positions.”
Given Iran’s history of exporting violence and terrorism, that Iranians on both sides of the border are discussing how they are infiltrating North America should be of concern.
Iran has been forced to recalibrate its efforts during the past decade due to the shifting views of Canadian and American governments. The Obama Administration (2009-2017) gave virtual free rein to Iranian agents of influence. They were supported by a variety of Administration insiders such as Valerie Jarrett. When the Iranian Navy seized ten US Navy sailors and photographed them in humiliating positions, Vice President Joseph Biden described this as “just standard nautical practice“. Predictably, Iran forced a US Navy female sailor to wear a hijab , possibly as a way of showing male dominance over an American female.
The government of Canada had earlier allowed Iranian agents such as Faisal Larijani to build infrastructure and support. This included the Center for Iranian Studies, located in Toronto at 290 Sheppard Ave. W., which was incorporated in January 2008.
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Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has shown with sophisticated leadership that he understands the danger his country is in. Iran has its sights set on Saudi Arabia.
The problem is that just as U.S. President Barack Obama was incapable of admitting that extremist Islam is what drives global terrorism, his administration seemed totally incapable of recognizing the true objectives of the Iran’s military buildup, missiles and nuclear program. Instead, the Obama Administration toadied up to Iran, lavishly bankrolled the leading state sponsor of terrorism and permitted it, in a deceptive, agreement still unsigned by Iran, to build a nuclear weapons capability. Meanwhile, as Iran’s leaders threaten to destroy Israel and the United States, what they are actually planning is the complete control of the Arabian Peninsula.
The lowest clerk in the CIA knows that for years Iran has been doing its utmost to subvert and destabilize the Arabian Peninsula, take Shi’ite control of Islam’s shrines in Mecca and Madinah, to dominate the sea lanes and oil reserves, and, following a plan of “today the Middle East, tomorrow the world,” to expel both the Americans and Saudis from the Hijaz: the western part of the Saudi Peninsula, formerly an independent kingdom, and where the Shi’ites and the major oil fields sit.
Iran also continues to pull the strings of its proxies, Qatar and Oman. From combination of self-interest and fear of Iran, they acquiesce to Iranian control. Others will follow. The entire region is increasingly anxious lest the Americans abandon the Arabian Peninsula altogether.
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As the Trump administration deliberates over the future of the nuclear deal with Iran, candidates in the Islamic Republic’s May 19 presidential election have turned its underwhelming economic impact on ordinary Iranians into a wedge issue.
A new campaign video released by hardline challenger Ebrahim Raisi — who is said to be close to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — portrays incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, who is running for re-election, as a stooge of the wealthy.
Images in the video dart between street children and substandard housing to mansions with swimming pools and Western-style apartments. The underlying message is that Rouhani — in his desire to bring foreign investment back to Iran following the July 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers — has ignored the needs of the most vulnerable members of society.
Yet, on paper at least, the Iranian economy is showing signs of recovery. “The World Bank Institute report showed that growth last year was at 6.4 percent,” said Emanuele Ottolenghi, an Iran expert with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) think tank in Washington, DC.
“An important component of the recovery comes from the return to almost pre-sanctions levels of oil sales,” Ottolenghi told The Algemeiner. “The dark side of this is that the wealth hasn’t trickled down to the ordinary people, so there hasn’t been a boom effect on the economy.”
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When the Obama administration managed to avoid a congressional vote on its nuclear deal with Iran in 2015 courtesy of a Democratic Senate filibuster, the argument surrounding the controversial agreement seemed to be over. That’s why Democrats are reacting with impatience and skepticism about statements from the Trump administration about re-evaluating the deal.
Yet rather than an impotent gesture designed to distract us from a decision not to tear up the accord that President Donald Trump blasted throughout the 2016 election campaign, the administration’s talk of reopening the issue should be taken seriously. Trump’s foreign policy team is coming to grips with the fact that everything it hopes to accomplish in the Middle East as well as threats to US security are connected to an Iranian regime immeasurably strengthened — both politically and economically — by Obama’s misguided effort to create detente with Tehran.
At best, the pact with Iran merely kicked the can down the road on the nuclear threat, since the accord will expire in a decade. With its advanced nuclear infrastructure and research ability left intact, Iran will soon be in position to achieve its nuclear ambitions while having its economy bolstered by revived ties with the West. Yet by deliberately ignoring Iran’s role as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, its illegal testing of ballistic missiles, and its military adventures in Iran and Yemen, Obama’s deal essentially made the Islamist regime even more dangerous to its Arab neighbors, as well as to Israel and the West, while seemingly leaving Trump with no choice but to live with the mess he inherited.
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