by Atousa Pilger
Negotiations concluded two years ago, between Iran and the P5 + 1 group of nations (the five permanent member of the UN plus Germany), led by the U.S. for the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the nuclear deal.
Although it has been argued that deal has slowed down Iran's progress toward a nuclear weapon, restrictions on the Iranian nuclear program are limited, as is the access that international inspectors have to Iran's facilities.
At the same time, the Iranian regime continues its activities in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, and has deliberately engaged in close encounters with American warships. The regime has pledged a 145 percent increase in Iran’s military budget, and declared its readiness for war.
The Trump administration has enforced a harder line on Iran policy. The US president's signature on H.R. 3364, titled "Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017," displays his commitment to move in this direction.
Tehran calls the intensifying sanctions violations of JCPOA. However, terms of the deal are not affected by non-nuclear sanctions.
Many regime officials, including the head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, claim that Iran is ready to restart and escalate full-scale enrichment of nuclear materials. The implication of these statements suggest that nuclear improvements have not halted, despite the JCPOA's restrictions.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) revealed details of the escalation of the Iranian missile program, this past June. Their information prove that the nuclear threat is real. The NCRI identified more than 40 sites which are under the control of the IRGC, that are being used for missile development, manufacturing, and testing. More shocking is the collaboration with the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, known as SPND, occurring at more than one of those sites. SPND is the institution tasked with weaponization activities related to the Iranian nuclear weapons program.
Through the de-sanctioned Iranian economy, largely under control of the IRGC, more wealth is gained, and this, combined with continued lack of access to the nuclear sites of SPND, will allow Iran to ultimately deliver a nuclear weapon.
Still, revelations such as these should not limit focus on Iran’s nuclear issues, and distract from the regime's terrorism sponsorship, regional intervention, and human rights abuses.
The US has taken steps toward addressing the problem of the IRGC, with the new Iran sanctions bill signed into law. Now, “the administration should expand all anti-terror sanctions to the whole of the IRGC, including its affiliate entities and associated financial and economic arms,” writes Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the Washington office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, who is credited with exposing Iranian nuclear sites in Natanz and Arak in 2002, and triggering International Atomic Energy Agency inspections, in his article for the Washington Examiner.
He adds that, “Toward that end, the US should work with the UN and EU to evict the IRCG from the combat zones in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. This will help protect the West and its allies, as well as empower the Iranian people, who are seeking regime change and are more than capable of bringing it about on their own, under the right circumstances.”
Regime change is attainable without military action by Western powers. One step toward this end would be to isolate the Iranian regime and handicap it financially. As well, pressure must be exerted, not only over its nuclear program, but also over current and past crimes, including illicit missile testing, escalation of conflicts in the Middle East, and the 1988 massacre of political prisoners.
Jafarzadeh writes that, “The U.S. should single out all major human rights violators of the Iranian regime, including dozens involved in the horrific 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners.” Perpetrators of this crime that occurred nearly 30 years ago, still hold key positions in the regime.
To make a profound difference in the future of Iran, the power and influence of the IRGC must be abated. This action will strengthen the Iranian people, their organized opposition, and the will increase the prospect of a truly democratic Iranian government.