US DEAL WITH IRAN COULD TURN MIDDLE EAST INTO A NUCLEAR TINDERBOX
With the deadline for signing a nuclear deal with Iran looming on 30thJune, there is increasing frustration that President Obama seems to be committing to too many concessions and weakening the West’s approach to the Iranian regime. Obama has conceded that Iran’s expanding ballistic missile programme should be left out of any nuclear deal, despite the fact that they now have missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads and striking targets in Israel, Saudi Arabia or even Europe. North Korea has been an active partner with the Iranian regime in supplying weapons technology and a recent visit by senior North Korean missile experts to Tehran has confirmed fears that the regime is accelerating the size and quality of its intercontinental ballistic missile capability. Vladimir Putin has also now decided to renew a contract to deliver S-300 surface to air missile systems to Iran.
History has repeatedly demonstrated that countries that wish to undertake the vast expense and risk the international criticism of developing intercontinental ballistic missiles do so because they intend to arm their missiles with nuclear warheads and become nuclear powers. The Iranian missile programme makes no military, political or economic sense unless viewed in this context. Signing a nuclear pact with Iran on 30thJune would therefore be a major mistake, which could have fatal consequences for countries in the zone and for world peace.
President Obama’s former top military intelligence official – Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn – former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee in Washington in early June that any nuclear deal with Iran could only be a “placeholder”based on “wishful thinking”.He said the only way to stop Iran’s nuclear programme was “regime change”. Flynn said that any nuclear deal with Iran will set off a domino effect across the Middle East, with countries like Saudi Arabia rushing to buy nuclear weapons technology from Pakistan or other nuclear nations. The Saudi Ambassador to the UK has recently stated that "all the options are on the table,"including the possibility that the kingdom will take possession of nuclear weapons from Pakistan. These weapons are readily accessible to the Saudis due to their cooperation and support for Pakistan's military programme.
But despite the warnings, there are increasing signs that Washington will agree to ending all sanctions imposed against the Iranian regime and not simply sanctions related directly to their nuclear programme. Over decades, the range of US sanctions have covered everything from nuclear technology to ballistic missile research, terrorism, human rights violations and money laundering. The impact of the sanctions on the Iranian economy, coupled with the recent collapse in oil revenues, has crippled the theocratic regime. Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei is now demanding that all sanctions must be lifted the minute the agreement is signed on 30thJune and Obama, desperate to achieve a legacy agreement with America’s arch enemy, seems likely to agree, in a deal that will grant the Iranians billions of dollars of relief. Obama has hinted at Iran potentially recouping $150 billion in assets that have been trapped overseas by US sanctions. Such an injection of cash would revitalise the Iranian economy and allow the regime to fulfill its nuclear ambitions rapidly.
The US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - General Martin Dempsey – in a meeting in Israel this month, told his Israeli counterpart – Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot and Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon – that any deal with Iran which released billion of dollars in assets would also enable them to provide further assistance to their “surrogates”,such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, Bashir al-Assad’s bloody regime in Syria and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. General Dempsey stated: “I think they will invest in their surrogates, I think they will invest in military capability.”He continued: "If the deal is reached and results in sanctions relief, which results in more economic power and more purchasing power for the Iranian regime, it's my expectation that it's not all going to flow into the economy to improve the lot of the average Iranian citizen."
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told a conference in Israel two weeks ago: “I think there’s a belief that if Iran is more prosperous at home, it’ll be less aggressive abroad. But 50 billion dollars, 150 billion dollars and more is a lot of money. Well, the idea is that a wealthier Iran will stop funding terrorism. I think this is wishful thinking because this big money is big money for Iran’s worldwide campaigns of terror, big money for Iran’s regional aggression, big money for Iran’s unprecedented conventional arms buildup, big money for Iran’s cyber warfare programme and big money for Iran’s nuclear programme. And according to this deal, Iran gets big money regardless of its behaviour. That isn’t even mentioned in the deal.”Netanyahu concluded that if Obama thinks sanctions relief will change Iran, he is addressing the issue the wrong way round. Iran should be made to change first before sanctions are lifted, he said.
The Iranian regime is relentlessly increasing its foothold in neighbouring Iraq, where Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) General Qasem Suleimani is leading the Iranian armed and funded Shi’ite militias in the fight against ISIS. The IRGC and Suleimani are listed terrorists in the US and no doubt will welcome an end to sanctions and an end to the freezing of their international assets. Their joy at any such deal is unlikely to be shared by the wider Middle East or international community, who are increasingly agitated at the American tendency to look the other way as Iran extends its influence across the zone.