The Iran of Old

As the global nuclear deal with Iran marks its one-year anniversary this week, Tehran is maintaining its fierce anti-Americanism, receiving $100 billion-plus in sanctions relief with which it can better confront the United States in its region and beyond, and apparently trying to cheat its way to nuclear weaponry.

Notwithstanding President Barack Obama’s boast in announcing the deal last July 14 that it “makes our country, and the world, safer and more secure,” evidence continues to mount that it’s doing just the opposite.

With the deal coming together in the spring of 2015, Obama expressed hope that it would empower moderate Iranian forces who would convince the regime to invest the billions in sanctions relief in its economy rather than its “war machine.” But Tehran offers no signs of moderation, and if anything is doubling down on the anti-Americanism that has fueled the regime since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

In recent days, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei blamed “recent bombings in Muslim countries” on the “security services of America, the Zionist regime and England” and said Tehran will “never cooperate” with Washington on Syria and other regional problems. And with tens of thousands of Iranians chanting “death to America” at Quds Day rallies on July 1, President Hassan Rouhani declared that “the global arrogance” (a euphemism for America and its allies) “wants to create discord among Muslims.”

Tehran’s latest anti-American vitriol coincides with revelations about Iranian nuclear-related activities that conflict with the nuclear deal as well as with related United Nations Security Council resolutions.

For starters, Iran has mounted a “clandestine” effort to acquire illicit nuclear technology and equipment from German companies “at what is, even by international standards, a quantitatively high level,” including at least nine attempts to acquire technology that could be used for nuclear weapons, according to Germany’s domestic intelligence agency. Iran, the agency predicted, “will continue its intensive procurement activities in Germany using clandestine methods to achieve its objectives.”

In a related matter, the Institute for Science and International Security, a Washington, D.C. nonproliferation think tank, reported that Iran recently tried to buy “tons of controlled carbon fiber,” which is used to build advanced centrifuges that can enrich uranium to atomic weapons-grade levels, from another nation. Since Iran already has enough carbon fiber to replace its existing advanced centrifuges, the Institute’s David Albright and Andrea Stricker wrote, it may be preparing to bypass the nuclear deal and build far more advanced centrifuges than the deal allows.

Meanwhile, Iran’s tests of its increasingly sophisticated ballistic missiles, on which it could later mount nuclear warheads, remain a central concern of global leaders. Reuters reported last week that in a confidential report to the Security Council, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that Iran’s missile tests “are not consistent with the constructive spirit” of the nuclear deal. That’s something of an understatement; in its resolution that approved the nuclear deal, the Security Council “called upon” Iran not to work on ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear warheads for up to eight years.

Briefing Germany’s parliament on the intelligence report last week, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Iran “continued unabated to develop its rocket program in conflict with the relevant provisions of the U.N. Security Council,” adding that NATO’s anti-missile system was deployed in response to that very program. Nevertheless, a defiant Tehran has insisted that it will continue its missile testing.

Iranian brazenness helps to explain growing congressional concern over Boeing’s decision to sell 100 jets to Iran Air in a $25 billion deal that the State Department welcomed – and for which Washington paved the way by dropping the sanctions it imposed on Iran Air in 2011 for using its planes to send rockets and missiles to Syria.

Late last week, the House passed legislation to block the Boeing sale (and any similar sales) as well as its financing by U.S. banks out of fears that a modernized Iran Air will again use its planes for those purposes. The legislation, in the form of two amendments to a 2017 budget bill, passed by voice vote, suggesting it enjoyed not only Republican but also considerable Democratic support.

One year into the nuclear deal, Iran seems more aggressive across the region as well, threatening the United States and its interests by sponsoring Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist proxies; propping up Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad; supporting Shi’ite rebels in Iraq and Houthi rebels in Yemen; and firing rockets dangerously close to a U.S. aircraft carrier while detaining U.S. sailors.

None of this should surprise us, for a regime born of a revolution nearly 40 years ago retains the aggressive, expansionist, anti-American fervor of its youth.

Lawrence J. Haas, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, is the author of the new book Harry and Arthur: Truman, Vandenberg, and the Partnership That Created the Free World.

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