When the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was signed by world-leading nations in 2015, it was hailed as a ground-breaking foreign policy achievement, aiming to ensure that Iran’s nuclear programme remains peaceful and does not lead to weapon development. Regrettably, the deal gave the world a false sense of hope, and the eyes of the international community are rightly returned to Iran’s regional and global aggression.
When examining the debacle of Iran, we should not solely approach the issue through their nuclear ambitions but through the wider threats emerging from the authoritarian state. It is no secret that Iran is working to expand its influence over the Middle East, supporting the Islamist terror group Hezbollah alongside cosying relations with Hamas. The regime, under the leadership of tyrant Ayatollah Khamenei, has allegedly continued to supply missiles and rockets to Hezbollah in Lebanon, posing a threat to numerous Israeli towns and cities. Note that UN Resolution 2231 Annex B, which endorsed the JCPOA, forbid the ‘supply, sale or transfer of arms from Iran or their nationals’.
Despite allegedly violating this UN Resolution, sanctions continue to be lifted on Iran to ensure that the JCPOA does not fall to dust. Iran has taken the international community for fools – the regime’s defence budget has more than doubled since the agreement was signed in 2015, taking advantage of their growing economy. In addition, Iran has continued testing ballistic missiles capable of launching nuclear warheads, also forbidden by UN Resolution 2231. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has declared that Iran will ‘strengthen [their] missile capabilities’, with the Iranian Military Chief of Staff threatening to ‘destroy Israel at lightning speed’ and to ‘turn Tel Aviv and Haifa to dust’.
The Green Movement of 2009, which saw tens-of-thousands of Iranians taking to the street to protest against Iranian leadership, proved the perfect opportunity for the West and Middle Eastern allies to bring about long-lasting change in Iran. Instead, President Obama remained silent and decided not to get involved, standing by while the Iranian Revolutionary Guard purged political rivals and jailed journalists reporting the facts. It has recently been revealed that Obama derailed a Drug Enforcement Agency effort to catch Iranian smugglers working with Hezbollah, the same smugglers providing weapons to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, all for the sake of ensuring the JCPOA came into action.
Those who argue that Iran does not pose a threat, or are willing to turn a blind eye to Iranian aggression, are living in a world of delusion. We cannot stand by and allow a rogue, tyrant-led state to continue acting aggressively, failing to take advantage of an opportunity provided by the international community to set things right. Once the JCPOA runs its course and the sunset clauses come into action, Iran can pick up their nuclear programme from where they left off. We know they have the ambition; we cannot allow it to become a reality.