US is leading the way in challenging Iran

US is leading the way in challenging Iran

US President Donald Trump has given the Iran nuclear deal a “last chance” and for the final time waived sanctions related to its nuclear program. If the agreement’s “disastrous flaws” are not fixed within 120 days, Trump says the US will withdraw from the deal.
In particular, the US insists on immediate inspections at all Iran’s nuclear sites, and it wants the curbs on Iran’s nuclear program — which expire after 10 years under the deal — made permanent. Trump has also asked Congress to modify US law on the nuclear deal to include clear automatic triggers that enable the US to re-impose nuclear-related sanctions if Iran violates the deal.
Iran is, of course, desperate to save the deal without any changes. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has frequently said the deal was “not renegotiable.” The reason for Iran’s attachment to the deal is that it has reaped great benefits from it, without significant sacrifices. It was able to maintain its nuclear program, end its isolation and receive billions of dollars from previously frozen assets.
European foreign ministers will meet in Brussels next week to discuss the Trump ultimatum. While voicing serious concerns about Iran’s non-nuclear activities, Europeans would rather have the deal stick without amendments. Unlike US businesses, which have not benefited significantly from the deal, Europeans have been falling all over each other trying to secure trade and investment deals with Iran, made possible by the end of nuclear-related sanctions.
Regional players, including the Gulf Cooperation Council, support the US position. At their summit in Kuwait last month, GCC leaders applauded the GCC-US strategic partnership and announced that they were keen to work with the Trump administration to counter Iran’s “aggressive and expansionary” policies in the region. They denounced those destabilizing policies “in their nuclear dimensions and ballistic missile program.” They emphasized the need to “prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” stop its ballistic missile program and counter its activities aimed at destabilizing the region and endangering its peace. They reserved their harshest criticism for Iran’s support for terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen and other sectarian militias.

While there is no consensus on the nuclear deal, all parties agree Tehran has to be held accountable on issues such as its ballistic missile program, its support for terrorism and its destabilizing activities in the region.

Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg

While there is no consensus now on the nuclear deal, all actors — including Europeans — agree that Iran has to be held accountable on non-nuclear issues, including its ballistic missile program, its support for terrorism and its destabilizing activities in the region. The recent protests in Iran have prompted additional concerns about human rights and the regime’s stability and long-term survival.
As GCC states have done before, Trump stressed the need to tie together Iran’s ballistic missile program, its support for terrorism and the nuclear issue, making any missile testing by Iran subject to “severe sanctions.” Similarly, the US administration has taken strong action against Iranian officials who are believed to support terrorism.
At the same time as the US was approving the waiver on nuclear-related sanctions, it also announced sanctions against 14 Iranian individuals and organizations, including the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani.
In another blow to the malign activities of Iran and its regional proxies, the US Department of Justice has set up the Hezbollah Financing and Narcoterrorism Team of federal prosecutors to investigate drug trafficking and money laundering believed to be carried out by the terrorist group and Iranian proxy.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the new team would examine cases stemming from Project Cassandra, a Drug Enforcement Administration task force that targeted Hezbollah’s money laundering and drug trafficking in the United States. The Justice Department “will leave no stone unturned in order to eliminate threats to our citizens from terrorist organizations and to stem the tide of the devastating drug crisis,” he said.
Unlike previous investigations of Hezbollah, the new probe is politically sensitive because there are accusations, yet to be proven, that the Obama administration sought to downplay the issue as it tried to conclude the nuclear deal. “While I am hopeful that there were no barriers constructed by the last administration to allowing DEA agents to fully bring all appropriate cases under Project Cassandra, this is a significant issue for the protection of Americans,” Sessions said.
Previous investigations of Hezbollah activities in the US and elsewhere have led to numerous convictions of its operatives for narcotics trafficking, terrorism, organized crime and money laundering, as well as assassinations and other acts of terrorism.
Washington’s push to counter Iran’s malign activities appears to be the most serious to date — and the most comprehensive, as it covers the nuclear program, ballistic missiles program, support for terrorism, narcoterrorism and money laundering. America’s allies are gradually joining the fight on one or more of these fronts.
•  Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg is a columnist for Arab News. Email: [email protected] 
Twitter: @abuhamad1
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