THE BLOG
07/31/2015 03:10 pm ET Updated Jul 30, 2016

On Iran--It's Not Just the Nukes; It's the Sanctions, Stupid

Bill Clinton made a simple policy slogan--"It's the economy, stupid"--legendary during his 1992 presidential campaign. It was a successful strategy by campaign manager James Carville to turn the public's attention away from incumbent George H. Bush's popularity following the invasion of Iraq, to the serious recession that was immediately at hand. Looking at the Iran deal, we would be wise to remember that slogan, since lifting Iranian sanctions and allowing them free flow of many billions of dollars could be almost as dangerous to the region and to us.

What's so wrong with the deal?
The objections to Obama's Iran agreement have centered mostly on the weakness of the deal to actually curtail Iran's nuclear program in any meaningful way. After all, Iran gets to keep all its nuclear facilities; it gets to continue to enrich uranium, which it needs to produce weapons-grade plutonium; and it can keep its heavy water reactor, another necessary component of plutonium, though conditional on the reactor being "rebuilt and redesigned." It also gets to keep its centrifuges, albeit at a reduced number, and it gets to keep its already-enriched uranium, also after reduction. There are, naturally, some restrictions on of all the above, such as inspections, but they're essentially meaningless, since:

1. Any outside inspections of any facility is conditional on Iran's approval after 24 days' notice. That's like giving your suspected heroin-using teenager a heads-up that you'll be checking his room for needles...next month. In 24 days Iran could sanitize its facilities faster than a Swiffer dusts my kitchen floor.
2. All of the above becomes null and void after 15 years, so even if Iran followed every single restriction right to the letter (anybody want to buy a bridge in the Sahara?), we'll just be back where we started again in 15 years, let alone in only 8 years when they get to build more centrifuges.

Isn't a nuclear Iran the biggest danger?
Clearly, the objections to the nuclear curtailment are valid and strong, as are the arguments cautioning against Iran's trustworthiness, given its more than 10-year long habit of lying and defying other agreements outright, mostly to Obama. But in concentrating on the imminent dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran, perhaps we're missing the forest for the trees?

All of the above restrictions and permissions are in exchange for what Iran really wants most--the lifting of economic sanctions. The minor restrictions against nuclear expansion are mere flies in the ointment to them, because they're going to expand anyway and they aren't terribly frightened by Obama and Kerry.

Which is exactly why this is where someone should be shouting from the Congressional rooftops, "It's the sanctions, stupid!" because seriously, Iran doesn't need a nuclear bomb to wreak havoc and destruction upon the Middle East and beyond--it just needs enough cash flow to support the wreakers.

Iran, for all its rhetoric about annihilating Israel and "death to America," most likely isn't going to do either of these things. Israel is more than capable of defending itself against Iran, and in much more than the obvious ways, as is America, if a nuclear-tipped missile could even get that far.

Iran supports proxy terrorists to do its fighting
But, and it's a big "but," Iran is the number one state-sponsor of terrorism in the world. It is the proxy supporter of the terrorist organizations of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis--and those are only the ones beginning with "H." Iran also supports the murderous Assad regime in Syria, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood), and al-Qaeda. With lifted sanctions resulting in more money available to support these terrorists, Iran doesn't ever need to attack anyone directly to control the region.

For example, with more money for arms, Hamas, which completely controls the Gaza strip and has made inroads into the Palestinian Authority-governed West Bank, could easily launch another war against Israel right at Israel's borders. Israel already is being compelled to defend its actions during the Hamas-initiated Gaza war last summer. Another Hamas attack would make it much more difficult for the US or public opinion to support any Israeli defensive action against Hamas' rockets, stored in tunnels underground at civilian installations. Those civilian installations, like schools, hospitals and residential areas, are bound to be used again by Hamas as staging areas for its weapons, even at the risk of civilian casualties .

Similarly, vital U.S. security interests in stabilizing Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Iraq would all fall to pieces following ramped-up terrorism in those areas, initiated by Iran's other Middle Eastern proxies. And before we think that Iran's danger to the world is limited to the Mid-East or just to Arab and Muslim terrorists, Iran is also a direct supporter of FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, potentially causing havoc right in our own Latin American backyard. Sure, it would be challenging for Iran to launch a weapon at America from 7000 miles away, but maybe not so difficult from Colombia?

But isn't there still an arms embargo?
Supporters of the agreement will make the argument that even with the lifting of sanctions, Iran still remains under an arms embargo, imposed in 2006. Yes, that's true, except in the new agreement, the sanctions against conventional weapons get lifted after just 5 years, and ballistic missiles after 8 years. And...they get lifted immediately if the IAEA determines that Iran is upholding its stance that its nuclear program is peaceful. All Iran has to do is look good for a short time, and the arms sanctions get lifted and they're off to the weapons supermarket. But even if the sanctions stay in place for 5 years, which is really a blink of the eye in geopolitical terms, does anyone with a modicum of reason actually think they won't be covertly sending money to their proxies for weapons in the meantime?

There are any number of reasons why Iran should be prevented from further developing a nuclear program--lack of trustworthiness, a long history of extremist antagonism, advanced and proven recklessness--and that's not even counting the almost guaranteed potential of a Mid-East arms race by Saudi Arabia & Co. ratcheting up exponentially. Clearly, the Obama administration and its +5 European allies almost certainly believe it's only something to worry about 15 years from now, when it will be some other leaders' problem. But the clear and present danger of a financially strong and emboldened Iran is much more immediate than a nuclear Iran.
Yes, it's the sanctions, stupid.