by Majid Rafizadeh
In July, the brutal Syrian regime of Bashar Al Assad was forced to sail away its last declared chemical weapons stockpile from a Danish ship to a US-government container ship, the Cape Ray, which is located at the Italian port of Gioia Tauro.
This serves as an example for an assertive stance in US foreign policy. Recently, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu lobbied for a Syria-type deal for the Islamic Republic of Iran. Netanyahu pointed out to Sky News, “A good deal is the one that was done in Syria… The chemicals and the means to make the weapons were dismantled and removed. What Iran is seeking is to keep the materials and the means to make nuclear weapons, and just allow inspections… Keep and inspect, rather than dismantle and remove – that’s the bad deal.”
The Obama administration was coerced into finally taking a strong position after Al Assad and his Armed Forces crossed the “red line” set by the US government multiple times. American credibility was significantly under question and the government had no other option rather than to carry out the policies that it promised to originally fulfill in case Assad crossed the “red line.”
This reveals that when the United States takes a firm position, it can make progressive changes, raise its credibility on the global stage, and prevent dictators and Islamists from growing.
The chemical case in Syria ought to be set as an example for how the United States should address the theocratic regime of Iran.
The Iranian leaders, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani and the senior cadre of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards did not suddenly change their intentions to be benevolent actors. Although the Islamic Republic spreads propaganda claiming that political and economic sanctions benefit the Islamic Republic due to the notion that sanctions have made Iran self-sufficient in military, defense, and manufacturing rockets and drones, years of political and economic isolation have endangered their hold on power.
As a result, they changed their tactics to gain back their economy and power. At this moment, the Islamic Republic is on its knees, there is a need for formidable leadership on the other side of the equation.
Nevertheless, the Obama administration is not seizing the opportunity and is looking for a partial final nuclear deal. The administration is compromising more and more, emboldening the ruling leaders of the Islamic Republic. In Geneva, it is the technocratic elite of the Iranian regime who are setting the rules.
The Supreme Leader recently changed his position, observing America’s weak stance, pointing out that the Islamic Republic of Iran would want 19,000 centrifuges in a few years for the uranium enrichment machines. He stated, “Their aim is that we accept a capacity of 10,000 separative work units, which is equivalent to 10,000 centrifuges of the older type that we already have. Our officials say we need 190,000. Perhaps not today, but in two to five years that is the country’s absolute need.” A seperative work unit or SWU is a measurement which shows how much work is needed in order to separate isotopes of uranium. On the other hand, this number of centrifuges is almost nine times more than what the international community has asked.
The number of centrifuges is critical due to the fact that with approximately 9,000 first-generation centrifuges spinning at Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant, and with the current enrichment level, the Islamic Republic can produce adequate weapons-grade uranium in order to create and fuel a nuclear warhead in a couple of months, according to nuclear experts.
Previously, Netanyahu stated on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” that a partial nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran will not work and the complete dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons should be used as an outline.
In addition, Netanyahu recently said,
I think we have to be clear that it would cross a line of history that would transcend anything else that we’re seeing in the Middle East… If one of these warring tribes, in this case the militant Shi’ites backed by Iran, get their hands on nuclear weapons, the world will be forever changed… Iran is run by an unforgiving sect- it puts forward front men and smiling people like Rouhani, but it’s governed with an iron hand and an iron heart by this man, [Ayatollah] Ali Khameini.It is time for the Obama administration to use the Syrian case, of coercing the regime into fully giving up their chemical weapons as an example.
The following ought to be the rules that the Obama administration should set for Iran (no more, no less).
1. The Islamic Republic of Iran should completely dismantle its nuclear program. A partial and compromised nuclear deal that allows Iran to enrich uranium and keep all its nuclear infrastructure, will allow the Islamic Republic to develop a nuclear bomb.
2. The Islamic Republic of Iran should respect human rights. This includes that all kinds of political repression; lack of freedom of speech, press, assembly, women rights, and minorities rights should be addressed.
3. The Islamic Republic of Iran should halt supporting proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas and cease providing these groups with funds and military and advisory assistance.
4. Iranian leaders should stop supporting the Assad regime and interfering in Iraq and other regional countries.
5. Iranian leaders should recognize Israel as a legitimate Jewish state.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar, is president of the International American Council and serves on the board of the Harvard International Review at Harvard University. Rafizadeh is also a senior fellow at the Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington, DC and is a member of the Gulf project at Columbia University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Dr. Rafizadeh at @majidrafizadeh.
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