By Heshmat Alavi
Maybe the single subject Democrats and Republicans can truly agree on in Washington, today and maybe for a long time to come, will be upgrading sanctions on Iran. President-elect Donald Trump is also expected to place his support behind this initiative, too.
While infuriating — read terrifying — Tehran, the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) extended Congressional prohibitions against the mullahs for another decade. This move enjoyed bipartisan support that is rare to find these days in Washington.
A 99-0 vote in the Senate and 419-1 in the House, as well as discussions within the Trump camp weighing new, non-nuclear sanctions against Iran, are crystal clear indications about what is to be expected from Jan. 20 onward come the new administration in town.
Goodbye, Obama Doctrine
From Iran’s perspective, the ISA passage comes as the uppercut, after the 1-2 punch Tehran suffered from the election of Donald Trump and Republicans taking full control over Congress. This also signals an end to the Democratic establishment, and Democratic Party in general, being held hostage to President Obama’s rapprochement with Iran.
The outright majority of favor votes to this new extension proves the major faults existing in the Obama-crafted Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and the entire negotiation process from 2012 to 2015 that led to such a strategic mistake.
Obama managed to merely isolate Iran’s nuclear drive and ambitions, but at what cost?
The Obama Doctrine unfortunately blindfolded the West from ever realizing how Iran’s mullahs continue to push forward a wide variety of other disruptions.
Their long slate includes horrendous human rights violations, a relentless effort to obtain long range ballistic missiles, and devastating the entire Middle East.
It goes beyond doubt Iran remains the leading state sponsor of terrorism, providing significant material and financial support for Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, Shiite militias in Iraq, its foot-soldier Houthis in Yemen, the Lebanese Hezbollah to stockpile tens of thousands of missiles, and more.
Arab states have also comprehended the message of Trump’s election, as 11 such governments issued an unprecedented letter to the outgoing United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warning of Iran’s meddling in the Middle East.
This stretches beyond the Middle East as well. Recently, two Iranian citizens (probable spies or terrorists) were apprehended in Kenya. Rest assured if serious investigations take place Iran’s fingerprints will be found, especially since the two were arrested in a diplomatic car.
With Democrats joining their Republican colleagues in passing the ISA, one can sense the pressure they had to endure under Obama to pledge their support for his foreign policy of waiving Iran sanctions.
In the meantime, Tehran took full advantage to elevate its proxy influence, network of terrorists and rendering a completely destabilized, flashpoint-style, crisis-riddled Middle East.
As a result, Iran considered the Obama foreign policy a green light to continue its conglomerate of devious activities jeopardizing peace and security across the region, especially as Obama repeatedly had the legitimate right to inflict sanctions, and refused to do so.
Team Obama provided Iran’s mullahs the leverage of threatening to walk away from first the nuclear talks, then the JCPOA, to make sure the Obama administration remained reticent from considering new sanctions.
Obama had a major weak-point of specifying the JCPOA as his legacy, allowing Tehran to continuously utilize this to the fullest.
While the world awaits the unfolding of the Trump Doctrine, the list of candidates he has placed forward provide a hint. Certain is the fact that the incoming Trump administration will bring an end to the Obama approach regarding Iran, and most likely the entire Middle East.
The Trump Team has already encouraged Congress to extend sanctions on Iran. As General James “Mad Dog” Mattis is on the path to the Pentagon, and the Central Intelligence Agency is to be directed by Michael Pompeo, a fierce Iran nuclear deal critic, Tehran is already sensing enormous pressures.
The last thing on the minds of Trump and his future team is preserving the Iran nuclear deal, and they could care less about Obama’s legacy.
Team Trump and the new Republican Congress have their own set of cohesive options and targets on how to make Tehran’s mullahs feel the pain. One very realistic measure is standing alongside the Iranian people — after Obama failed to do so — and their democratic opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
Iran walking away from the nuclear deal would be similar to abandoning ship in unknown waters. Obama’s engagement argued to not antagonize Iran, preventing Western leaders from comprehending the reality that Tehran is the sole party desperately in need of the JCPOA.
Iran may create some noise by threatening to restart its nuclear activities, yet it has gained too much under the deal. Abandoning it would be tantamount to shooting yourself not just in the foot, but a more vital organ.
Is the nuclear deal falling apart a possibility? Of course. And this is exactly the reason for recent panic in Tehran.
Trump and the new Congress will most definitely shred Obama’s Middle East policy.
“Push back on the Iranians in Iraq. Push back on them in Syria. Push back on them in the Gulf,” said former CIA Director Michael Hayden told ABC’s “This Week” last month.
Time will tell if the Trump administration will tear apart or further enforce the Iran nuclear deal. Both options spell disaster for the mullahs.
With the mullahs out of power in Tehran, the cure for the dilemmas they caused, diseasing the Middle East and beyond, will begin to spread instead.
Originally published in The Hill