Iranian Fantasyland

The clash between the reality of the world and the fantasy of the American President are on sharp display this week.  Iran’s parliament has refused to sign the deal, instead passing a law that commits Iran to pursuing the end of Israel’s nuclear weapons program.  Iran has conducted a new ballistic missile test in what even American Presidential adviser Samantha Power calls a “clear violation” of the deal.  Meanwhile, though still supposedly bound by international travel sanctions because of his efforts to assassinate diplomats worldwide, Qassem Suleimani is leading Iranian-backed forces in Syria.  In addition to thousands of Iranian troops deployed as part of a major ground offensive, Suleimani is commanding sectarian militias backed by Iran to give it a permanent foothold in the Levant.  The Long War Journal reports:

Harakat al Nujaba, an Iraqi Shiite militia that operates in both Iraq and Syria, has posted a photo of its fighters posing with Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani in Aleppo province.  On its official Facebook page, Harakat Nujaba said that “Al Hajj Qassem Soleimani oversees the conduct of the battles, which is being waged by the champions of the Islamic Resistance Harakat al Nujaba in Aleppo, Syria.”… The photos come just days after Soleimani was photographed in Latakia province in northwestern Syria. His presence in Latakia was confirmed by Reuters. According to the news service, Soleimani was “addressing Iranian officers and Hezbollah fighters with a microphone, wearing dark clothes as he spoke to the men in camouflage.” [For more information, see LWJ report, Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani rallies Iranian officers, Hezbollah in Syria.]

This is the context in which Barack Obama, the President of the United States, is proceeding with the eliminations of sanctions on Iran as if he had a diplomatic agreement with a cooperating partner.  Iran has in no way endorsed the JCPOA, let alone the UN Security Council ruling respecting it.  It is openly violating the agreement according to his own close adviser.  Nevertheless, he gave a short speech to commemorate his issuance of waivers of the sanctions:

Today marks an important milestone toward preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and ensuring its nuclear program is exclusively peaceful going forward…. I have directed that the heads of all relevant executive departments and agencies of the United States begin preparations to implement the U.S. commitments in the JCPOA, in accordance with U.S. law, including providing relief from nuclear-related sanctions as detailed in the text of the JCPOA once the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has verified that Iran has completed all of its nuclear steps. We will also be closely monitoring Iran’s adherence to its commitments, working closely with the IAEA and the other JCPOA participants, to ensure Iran fully fulfills each and every one of its commitments.

Iran expects the United States and Europe to lift sanctions as early as late 2015 or 2016, as the remaining formality associated with the IAEA’s certification of their nuclear program as peaceful has already been arranged.  According to Iranian deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s agreement with the IAEA states that it will issue a “gray” report blessing Iran’s program by December 15th.  That timeline is closely aligned with what Germany’s foreign minister says he expects from the program, stating that sanctions will probably be fully lifted in January.

As Amir Taheri pointed out in a recent analysis, it may well be that no one but Obama will have actually signed off on the Iran deal.  Iran has its own “deal” that has different goals and that commits itself only to voluntary actions that are provisional in character.  Neither Iran’s parliament nor the American Congress ever signed off on the deal.  Congress merely filibustered consideration of the deal, and the Iranian parliament passed a new deal with itself.  The Iranian government is openly violating both the terms of the deal and such international sanctions as are allegedly still in place.  “[A]s things now stand,” Taheri says, “Obama may end up being the only person in the world to sign his much-wanted deal, in effect making a treaty with himself.”

A treaty, or perhaps just a fantasy.