Ali Khamenei, gave his qualified support for the nuclear deal. He also used the occasion to call Obama a liar.
The clock’s officially, if quietly, ticking toward implementation of the nuclear deal that world powers signed with Iran. You may not have heard it over the louder sound of Tehran testing a precision guided, nuke-capable ballistic missile.
On Sunday, President Obama cautiously celebrated the new stage in his crowning foreign-policy achievement. Then on Wednesday the Iranian top mullah, Ali Khamenei, gave his qualified support for the nuclear deal. He also used the occasion to call Obama a liar.
Dealing with Iran is tough.
The next stage is “implementation day”: That’s when a global watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, certifies that Iran has implemented its end of the deal.
As the joint plan of action envisions the process, only once that “implementation” is certified will America and other powers begin removing the various sanctions and restrictions that had been imposed on Iran. Until then, existing rules remain – rules like the Security Council resolutions that have banned any Iranian testing, stashing or developing ballistic missiles.
Oops. As UN Ambassador Samantha Power said last week, “We can confirm that Iran launched on Oct. 10 a medium-range ballistic missile inherently capable of delivering a nuclear weapon.” On Wednesday Power, along with French, Brit and German colleagues, formally called on the council to take the “appropriate action” to address the violation – but little, if any, is expected.
Well, they’re not quite shaking in their boots in Tehran. Earlier in the week, the mullahs published images that, while real, looked like they were taken from an Austin Powers flick. They depicted an array of shiny-looking missiles stashed in a deeply dug tunnel, awaiting Dr. Evil’s launch command.
Punishing such violations is a fantasy. In reality, sanctions – like the travel ban imposed on the Iranian general and arch terrorist Qassem Suleimani, who now pops up daily in in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and even Moscow – have long been discarded.
Officials in Washington and Europe insist that they’ll keep an eye on Iran’s regional aggression and human-rights violations. But no one expects any action that would seriously endanger any of Iran’s non-nuclear activities. The nuke deal is the only game in town, as far as Western officials are concerned.
So when Khamenei gave his qualified endorsement for that deal on Wednesday, he was sure to add that any suggestions that the “structure of sanctions will remain in place are considered a breach” of the deal.
In other words, if the Security Council decides to punish Iran for testing missiles or selling arms in the region, Khamenei will tear up the deal. Is it any wonder, then, that no one in the council expects a significant punishment for Iran’s breach?
The Iran deal gives the mullahs a built-in advantage. Western firms were once barred from operating in Iran. Now Iran’s open for business – and that business is lucrative. No sanctions will be added. The opposite: all economic restrictions are already melting, regardless of UN certification that Iran has fulfilled its end of the bargain.
Plus, too many medals and Nobels are at stake for Westerners to expose Iranian violations. They fear that Khamenei will call the whole thing off. Obama, Kerry et al. wouldn’t want anyone to know Iran has cheated.
Yes, most analysts claim Iran will refrain from violating the nuclear deal. But “violation” can be interpreted differently by different people, so Iran will continue to push the envelope as far as it can, testing our reaction.
And what really can we do anyway? On Wednesday, the ayatollah noted that Obama long ago sent him at least two letters saying that America has no intention of toppling his clerical system – though Khamenei remains skeptical.
No reason to be. Obama’s more than happy to deal with Khamenei – hence his striking a deal that enhances Iran’s financial and military capabilities, allows the mullahs to spread their dangerous ideology around the region and the world and perpetuates the oppression of the Iranian people.
Hopefully, the next president will at least give Khamenei reason to be paranoid about regime change.