Without any great surprise, the Iran lobby has jumped into the post-election fray with both feet to simultaneously try to save the Iran nuclear deal and muddy the waters for the developing Trump administration’s policy towards the Iranian regime moving forward.
The problems facing the Iran lobby are wide and varied. On the one hand, it is faced with the proposed possibility that a Trump administration will rescind the nuclear agreement, modify it to link it to other conditions such as Iran’s support for terrorism, or re-impose sanctions the Obama administration had lifted in the hopes of cultivating “moderation” within the regime.
In any scenario, what is sure to happen is that a national debate will once again be taken up about the future course of American foreign policy towards the Iranian regime much to the consternation of the mullahs in Tehran and their lobbyist allies such as the National Iranian American Council.
Trita Parsi, founder of the NIAC, took to the editorial pages again in an effort to save the discredited deal, writing in Foreign Policy that “the Iran deal was already on fragile ground, and frankly, even a Hillary Clinton victory would have increased its vulnerability. But with Trump, its fate is arguably more complicated than it would have been with a victory by Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz — two Republican senators who, unlike Trump, promised to tear the deal apart on their first day on the job.”
“Trump has ‘only’ vowed to renegotiate the deal — a completely unrealistic option — while simultaneously complaining that the deal did nothing to lift America’s primary sanctions on Iran,” he writes.
Parsi tries to make the case that the U.S. cannot act to unilaterally alter or rescind the deal, claiming that it is bound to a United Nations resolution jointly with the other five countries that negotiated and signed the agreement. Of course, Parsi, as usual, is wrong.
The fact that the deal was never submitted to the U.S. Senate to be ratified as a treaty document makes it subject to the same executive actions President Obama took in agreeing to it. Also, since the agreement requires all six nations who agreed to it to remain committed or otherwise render it in non-compliance, the Trump administration could simply void it with an executive order re-imposing sanctions or finding the Iranian regime in non-compliance due to several waivers and exemptions already granted to the mullahs.
Ironically, Parsi tries to make the case that dissatisfaction with the deal within Iran could lead to Hassan Rouhani’s defeat in next year’s presidential elections (as if that would be a bad thing). The regime’s top cleric, Ali Khamenei, has already made clear that Rouhani does not set foreign policy and only serves as a loyal soldier for the regime.
Rouhani’s utility is only as good as the perception in the West that he is a moderate.
Parsi even tries a more impressive feat of mental gymnastics by trying to reason that a Trump administration might actually be good for U.S. relations with Iran; a laughable position given Parsi’s vitriolic and incendiary comments aimed at Trump throughout the campaign.
These moves demonstrate the Iran lobby’s willingness to do or say anything that helps the mullahs.
The efforts to influence a Trump administration extends also to the same echo chamber the Obama administration used to help support the nuclear agreement in the first place, as evidenced by a “report” issued by NIAC which lists as its signers a veritable who’s who of apologists and supporters of the Iranian regime.
Some of the signers include renowned Iran advocates such as Joseph Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund, Bijan Khajehpour of Atieh International, and Hadi Salehi Esfahani of the University of Illinois.
While the New York Times described the signers as “76 national security experts,” a closer perusal reveals several are NIAC staffers such as Tyler Cullis and Reza Marashi (they must have been scraping to add a few more names to fill out the list). There were also experienced national security experts with titles such as professors of anthropology, religious studies, and of linguistics, and they even managed to dig up a graduate student or two to fill out the list.
A list of Nobel Prize winners, this list is not. But what it does represent is a pitiful attempt by the NIAC to cobble together anyone willing to attach their name to such a piece of propaganda and funnel back through the same sympathetic publications that previously supported the Iranian regime.
For the Trump administration, the challenge of confronting Iranian extremism was made more complicated by the European Union’s statement that it intended to continue to restore ties with the Iranian regime, despite the terrible rise of executions and human rights violations. This is unfortunately not surprising considering the parade of EU ministers and government officials traveling to Tehran in order to secure business deals in the hopes of being first in line to cash in on an expected financial windfall.
It is unworthy of those EU leaders to have gone to Tehran while the Iranian regime was busy executing Iranian political dissidents and snatching up dual-national citizens during those visits.
The fact that Paris is commemorating the one year anniversary of the terror attacks makes these moves to accommodate Tehran all the more ridiculous.
“The European Union reiterates its resolute commitment to the (Iran nuclear deal),” the bloc’s foreign ministers said in a statement in Brussels:
The European Union is committed to support the full and effective implementation … by the lifting of nuclear related economic and financial sanctions and engaging with the private sector and economic operators, especially banks, to promote growth in trade and investment.
Trump’s greatest challenge will be not in threatening to rip up the nuclear agreement, but resisting the global pressure to shift the focus on the Iranian regime away from human rights and terror and onto trade and business.
For the Iran lobby and the mullahs, that lobbying effort is well underway in the hopes the world will lose sight of the carnage in Syria, the Sunni vs. Shiite bloodletting in Iraq, and the civil war in Yemen, and will instead focus on selling iPhones and new mobile technologies in Tehran (such as Vodafone) and drilling for oil in the Persian Gulf by the giant Total.
Even now, the mullahs realize the precarious nature of their existence in the aftermath of the presidential election. They recently announced a new military agreement with China and another $10 billion arms deal with Russia.
Trump’s transition team would be well-advised to keep a skeptical eye on the Iran lobby’s efforts and continue to rely on the collective wisdom of Iranian regime-skeptics such as Rudy Giuliani and John Bolton.