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Saturday 18 February 2017
When Iranian minister of foreign affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks to the Munich Security Conference this weekend, his words are likely to be misleading at best and deceitful at worst. But it is nonetheless appropriate that Iran be represented at this premier world security conference because Iran continues to be the greatest threat there is to world security.
Mr. Zarif may proclaim, as he has before, that Iran will “never initiate war” even though it is obvious that is exactly what Iran has done, for years, either directly or indirectly through radical Islamist terrorist proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Zarif may again accuse the United States of breaking the Nuclear Agreement between Iran and the P5+1, but, of course, it is Iran that has broken at least two explicit obligations of the Agreement and tested ballistic missiles in defiance of UNSC Resolution 2231 which endorses the Nuclear Agreement.
America has a new president and his views about Iran are quite different from his predecessor. After Iran recently tested those ballistic missiles, president Trump’s national security adviser publically put the Iranians “on notice” that the US would respond to such belligerent behaviour. And then the Trump administration’s Treasury department imposed new economic sanctions on Iran.
Thus far the US has been alone in standing up to Iran, but if the US remains alone, Iran will only grow stronger, bolder, and more threatening to the rest of the world. Therefore the support of the European allies is needed.
The relationship between the United States and Iran is on course to regress to what it was in a previous, dangerous era. The significant difference today is that Iran is stronger, wealthier, and emboldened by the Nuclear Agreement and the surge of cash it brought them.
Analysis from the Institute of War recently set out details showing how Iran was preparing its military for “quasi-conventional warfare hundreds of miles from its borders.”
Forces on the frontlines in Iraq, Syria and Yemen and have been joined by thousands of fighters tied to the IRGC, commanding new loyalty throughout the region. Threats of “roaring missiles” have come from senior military officials in Iran, and vocal hostility towards the US grows. Addressing Iran’s escalating aggression should be on everyone’s minds as the Munich Security Conference convenes.
Europe’s leaders in particular cannot allow doubts they may have about the new administration drive a wedge between our existing international partnerships. Think of the tragedy in Syria—enabled by Iran’s support for the Assad regime—where barrel bombs fall on innocent civilians and cause a massive refugee influx and security risk in Europe. It is in both European and American interests to check Iran.
Trans-Atlantic cooperation, which is celebrated in Munich every February, has been one of history’s greatest success stories—bringing stability and prosperity, checking aggression and expanding freedom.
This conference can send a clear signal to Iran by employing new non-nuclear sanctions based on Iran’s regional aggression, human rights violations, and support of terrorism—all of which were not affected by the Iran Nuclear Agreement.
The hope that the Iranian regime would adhere to the spirit of the nuclear agreement and become more moderate was far too optimistic from the beginning, and looks impossible now. The political and religious leader of Iran, ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has stressed in several very clear statements, that Iran is not willing to change its policy. The hope in Germany and in many other states of the world that Iran would accept the existence of Israel as a state, have been bitterly disappointed. On the contrary, Iran is organising exhibitions in which the Holocaust is denied.
As both rhetoric and actions escalate, world security and stability will once again depend on international action and a renewed commitment among partners and friends to unite to protect ourselves from the radical Iranian regime.
Although during his campaign president Trump said he would tear up the Iran Nuclear Agreement, that seems unlikely now in part because the new administration wants to work with our allies on a new policy toward Iran.
We hope European leaders will respond in kind to this different approach by the Trump Administration.
Joseph I. Lieberman, a former U.S. senator from Connecticut and 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee, is chairman of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI). Dr. August Hanning, the former director of the Federal Intelligence Service of Germany (BND), is senior advisor to UANI.