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Trump Makes Clear: Era of Appeasement Is Over
The Iranians receive just the warning they were asking for.
By Joseph Klein
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned on Sunday that “America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.” Reacting to the prospect of U.S. actions aimed at cutting off all Iranian oil exports by this November, Rouhani said that Iran could respond by shutting down international oil shipments in the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a threat the Iranian regime has made in the past. “We have always guaranteed the security of this strait,” Rouhani said. “Do not play with the lion’s tail; you will regret it forever.”
President Trump was not impressed. He tweeted what amounts to an ultimatum in all caps. Stop the threats against the United States or suffer severe consequences:
“To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!”
President Trump’s tweet contained a none too subtle reference to the feckless Obama administration’s appeasement of the Iranian regime. There is now a different sheriff in charge who will brook no threats, lies or chicanery.
Former President Obama coddled the thugs running the Iranian regime to get his disastrous nuclear deal over the finish line, no matter what concessions he felt he had to make to secure his “legacy achievement.” Obama frontloaded relief from the onerous sanctions that had brought the Iranian regime to the negotiating table in the first place. And he threw in cash bonuses as well, including $1.7 billion in ransom payments to secure the release of five American hostages seized by the rogue regime even though several Americans are still detained and missing inside of Iran. In return, Obama got loophole-ridden temporary “commitments” from the Iranian regime to wind down its nuclear enrichment program. The final terms of the deal allowed Iran to claim its military sites off limits to international inspections and failed to bar Iran from developing and testing missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Back in 2013, as negotiations leading to the nuclear deal were just getting underway, Obama said he was hopeful that a resolution of differences over the nuclear issue could be found. He stated as fact that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who calls the shots on any major policy matters, had “issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons.” Obama was crediting a benevolent religious motive for Khamenei’s willingness to pursue a nuclear deal. The truth is, however, that the leaders of the Iranian theocracy are driven only by their Islamist supremacist ideology, thirst for power and greed.
As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo pointed out in his speech on Sunday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, Ayatollah Khamenei himself “has his own personal, off-the-books hedge fund called the Setad, worth $95 billion, with a B. That wealth is untaxed, it is ill-gotten, and it is used as a slush fund for the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps]. The ayatollah fills his coffers by devouring whatever he wants.”
Khamenei went along with the nuclear deal for the sole purpose of lulling the gullible Obama administration and its negotiating partners into immediately removing the yoke of crippling sanctions from Iran’s neck. He did not act out of a sincere religious belief. He certainly has shown no genuine concern for the welfare of the Iranian people. He cared only about how the sanctions were hurting him, his fellow ayatollahs and the IRGC in the pocketbook. Khamenei had no intention of changing the Iranian regime’s hostile actions towards the United States. Just three days after completion of the nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Khamenei posted a tweet with what appears to be an image of a silhouette of Obama holding a gun to his head and a threat against the “criminal U.S.”
Within just a few months thereafter, the Iranian military seized 10 U.S. Navy sailors aboard two small boats that had strayed inadvertently into Iranian territorial waters as they sailed from Kuwait to Bahrain. In violation of the Geneva Conventions, the sailors’ captors made the sailors pose for propaganda photos and videos, showing them in a humiliating position on their knees with their hands clasped behind their heads. Former Secretary of State John Kerry added to the humiliation when he thanked Iran’s leaders “for their cooperation and quick response” in securing the sailors’ release and claimed that the sailors had been “well taken care of.” Forcing one’s captives to grovel, in Kerry’s mind, is evidence of caring hospitality.
President Trump has wisely lifted the lid on the Iranian regime’s deceptions and the JCPOA’s fundamental flaws. The president announced in May of this year that the United States would be withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. Tough U.S. sanctions are being re-imposed. The first group of sanctions on Iran’s automotive sector, gold trade, and other industries are scheduled to resume in early August. More significantly, the State Department has announced that it aims to cut off all Iranian oil exports by this November. To accomplish this objective, the Trump administration will use financial leverage by imposing sanctions on foreign financial institutions that knowingly conduct or facilitate certain significant financial transactions with the Central Bank of Iran, including for the purchase of petroleum. Some foreign companies are already abandoning prospective business dealings with Iran. These actions not surprisingly have infuriated Iran’s leaders. They see Iran’s economy in a free fall and Iranian citizens protesting in the streets against the regime with slogans such as “The people are paupers while the mullahs live like gods.” Nothing gets the attention of the thugs in charge as much as rising pressure for regime change.
Obama and Kerry tried to fool us into believing that Iranian President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif were “moderates” who could steer the Iranian regime in a less confrontational direction. They are nothing of the kind. Thankfully, the Trump administration has their number. Secretary of State Pompeo described them as “polished front men for the ayatollahs’ international con artistry.” He added that the front men’s nuclear deal “didn’t make them moderates; it made them wolves in sheep’s clothing.” And he addressed the Iranian people’s hope for freedom in a manner that eluded the regime sycophants in the Obama administration who were afraid to offend Ayatollah Khamenei and his henchmen:
Sometimes it seems the world has become desensitized to the regime’s authoritarianism at home and its campaigns of violence abroad, but the proud Iranian people are not staying silent about their government’s many abuses.
And the United States under President Trump will not stay silent either.
In light of these protests and 40 years of regime tyranny, I have a message for the people of Iran: The United States hears you; the United States supports you; the United States is with you… Right now, the United States is undertaking a diplomatic and financial pressure campaign to cut off the funds that the regime uses to enrich itself and support death and destruction. We have an obligation to put maximum pressure on the regime’s ability to generate and move money, and we will do so.
Just as Ronald Regan had branded the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” Secretary Pompeo said that Iran “is run by something that resembles the mafia more than a government.” His comparison got under the skin of Iran’s Foreign Ministry, whose spokesman said that Secretary Pompeo’s speech was “a clear interference in Iran’s state matters.”
General Gholam Hossein Gheibparvar, the chief of the IRGC’s volunteer Basij force, said on Monday, in response to President Trump’s warning, that President Trump was simply engaging in “psychological warfare” and “cannot do a damn thing against Iran.” Gheibparvar is a hardliner, appointed by Ayatollah Khamenei during the waning days of the Obama administration to take charge of the regime’s principal paramilitary force used to quell domestic dissent. He had experience with such matters in helping to brutally repress the Green Movement protests in 2009 while Obama looked the other way. Gheibparvar fails to understand the effectiveness of psychological warfare, social media and maximum economic pressure to throttle the regime’s and its thugs’ critical sources of revenue, when employed by an American president with some backbone. These instruments of power can lead to the implosion of the Iranian regime’s mafia-like enterprise without necessarily having to fire a shot.
Should the Iranian regime be so foolish as to precipitate a military confrontation with the United States, the response will be diametrically opposed from the Obama administration’s policy of appeasement.