Why is Qassem Suleimani Smiling? The Iran Deal and Sanctions Relief for Terrorists

Experts speaking at the Hudson Institute on Friday drew on Iran’s history in dealing with its neighbors and America to paint an accurate picture of how Iran will act in the aftermath of the Deal’s implementation.

“Over the last 35 years, there has not been an event that has warranted this tilt towards Iran. There has not been one single event that warrants this pivot towards Iran,” Michael Pregent, Executive Director of Veterans Against the Deal said. “Hope is not a method.”

Derek Harvey, Director of the Global Initiative on Civil Society and Conflict at the University of South Florida, said that the Deal only empowers the Iranian regime, in the form of funding and validation, to continue the same behavior they have assumed for the last thirty-five years. He said the Deal proves to the Iranians that their current tactic is effective, and emboldens them to pursue their ultimate goal of achieving regional hegemony. He added that there is no reason to believe that Iran has changed its agenda.

“I worry that a renewed, and validated, and better resourced Iran will just continue its hegemonic aspirations in the region, and they’ve been very effective at sewing disorder, taking advantage of their proximity, and using their a-symmetric capabilities to advance their interests,” Harvey said. “Fundamentally it’s going to empower the regime and give them military capabilities that are going to be detrimental to our interests and our allies interests in the region. We don’t have any real evidence of the character or nature of this regime changing.”

Harvey said that despite many Iranians being “westernized,” educated in Western institutions and English speaking, America must not be fooled to believe that we share common interests or ideas. Although some of them may appear similar to Westerners and are perhaps relatable to Americans, they maintain the ideology, which they were raised in. He said that America must not assume that Iranians have abandoned their extremist worldview because they lived elsewhere than Iran. Ultimately, America must assume that Iran will be governed according to the fundamentalist ideology that has prevailed thus far.

“Just because people have been to Western schools, speak fluent English, are very comfortable in dealing with Americans and Western Europeans, does not mean that they don’t have hardline, ideological, religious underpinnings that justify how they are performing and what they intend to do in leadership positions in that country. I think we are deceiving ourselves in projecting onto them things that are not there,” he said.

Pregent said that America must consider why sanctions were implemented in the first place, as a predictor of where the money will go after sanctions relief. He explained that Iranian money was sanctioned because it was being funneled to terrorist groups, and there is no reason to believe the funds will be re-allocated upon being unfrozen.

“The thing about this deal is, people say the money is going to go back to the Iranian people. Well the money was sanctioned, to begin with, because it was involved in terrorist activity. The money was sanctioned to begin with because it was involved in the procurement of military materials that would lead to a nuclear capability. So it’s not going to go back to the people,” he said.

Iran will act as it wishes, given the Iranian government does not feel deterred, according to Harvey. Iran sees America’s lack of retaliation as a pass to continue its rogue behavior in pursuit of regional dominance. “Iranians understand our reluctance to strike back,” he said.

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