The Islamic Republic of Iran is already reaping diplomatic dividends from the disastrous nuclear deal it entered into last July with the P-5 + 1 nations (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany). Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will be visiting Rome Italy next month, marking his first trip to a European Union capital. His trip will include a meeting with Pope Francis. Rouhani will then be moving on to Paris. It is a victory lap by the president of a regime that got virtually everything it wanted in the deal, and is choosing selectively which portions of the deal it will ignore.
The so-called “international community,” led by appeaser-in-chief Barack Obama, is welcoming the Iranian regime back into the “community of nations” as if its leaders were akin to the prodigal son in the famous parable. However, unlike the prodigal son, Iran’s leaders remain defiant and unrepentant.
Rouhani’s boss, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, finally approved the nuclear deal, but with conditions that delay Iran’s implementation of its obligations to de-commission the heavy water Arak reactor and to send enriched uranium abroad. “Any action regarding Arak (reactor) and dispatching uranium abroad … will take place after the PMD (possible military dimensions) file is closed,” Khamenei wrote in a letter to Rouhani. In essence, he is holding the deal hostage until United Nations inspectors clear the Iranian regime of any suspicion of engaging in past research involving nuclear weapons development, based on the results of Iran’s own self-inspection. Khamenei also insisted, as he has done previously, that the U.S. and other countries announce the elimination of sanctions against Iran, not just their suspension as the nuclear deal actually calls for.
Iran also flouted the current international embargo on its missile program when it tested a ballistic missile last weekend. United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which explicitly endorsed the Iranian nuclear deal, states unequivocally as follows:
“Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology, until the date eight years after the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] Adoption Day or until the date on which the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] submits a report confirming the Broader Conclusion, whichever is earlier.” (Annex B, Paragraph 3)
No worries, says the Obama White House. The Obama administration acknowledged the U.S. has “strong indications” that Iran violated United Nations Security Council resolutions with its ballistic missile test over the weekend. Nevertheless, in an astounding example of twisted logic, White House Press Secretary Josh Ernest said that Iran’s violations of UN Security Council resolutions regarding its missile program are “not new” and should be viewed as “entirely separate” from the nuclear deal itself. Josh Ernest said this without even the slightest hint that he was joshing, even though the whole purpose of Security Council Resolution 2231, which Iran is currently violating, was to serve as the basis for making the nuclear deal a part of international law.
In the words of New Zealand’s Foreign Minister who was presiding over the Security Council session at which Security Council Resolution 2231 was adopted, the intent of the resolution was “to give international legal force to the agreement reached in Vienna, and extend the obligations it contains across the broader UN membership.” The missiles involved are those “designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” (Emphasis added)
Iran had insisted late in the nuclear deal negotiations on limiting unconditionally the duration of the missile embargo to 8 years, and the duration of the conventional arms embargo to 5 years. Obama caved in order to get the deal done. As his administration has acknowledged, Iran is not even complying with the terms of this last-minute concession which had made the finalization of the nuclear deal possible. The Obama administration’s response is the equivalent of giving a disobedient child a timeout. It may refer the matter to the UN Security Council for some unspecified action. More telling is the fact that last Sunday President Obama signed an order directing his administration to begin the process of issuing waivers to Iran nuclear sanctions.
When Pope Francis meets with President Rouhani next month, what we are likely to witness will be little more than a photo op – all smiles and praise for Iran’s willingness to negotiate the deal. The pope gave a preview of his reaction to the deal in his speech to the UN General Assembly last month: “The recent agreement reached on the nuclear question in a sensitive region of Asia and the Middle East is proof of the potential of political good will and of law, exercised with sincerity, patience and constancy.”
Fond of lecturing the world about the dignity and right to life of all human beings, will Pope Francis ask Rouhani to explain why over 700 executions are reported to have taken place so far this year in Iran, including the execution of two juvenile offenders last week, marking the highest total recorded in the past 12 years?
Reacting to the current spate of violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank, Pope Francis declared recently that the region needed “much courage and much strength of spirit to say no to hatred and revenge.” Will the pope ask Rouhani to explain why Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is helping to fuel sectarian hatred and revenge with his false accusation against Israel for what Khamenei called the “repeated insult of the sacred sanctuary of the al-Aqsa Mosque”?
Will Pope Francis, who has spoken out for the “fundamental right” of religious freedom, ask Rouhani why his government is persecuting Christians, including beating and arresting worshipers and confiscating their Bibles? Will the pope urge the immediate release of Pastor Saeed Abedini and others being detained by the Iranian regime for their religious beliefs?
The answer to all of these questions is likely to be no. And even if Pope Francis were to raise any of these issues, Rouhani can be expected to demur. He wants all the trappings of a papal audience with no confession of wrong-doing.
When President Rouhani arrives in Paris after his visit with Pope Francis, the focus of his meeting with French leaders, including French President Hollande, will undoubtedly turn to improving economic relations. France has not waited for this visit to line up at Iran’s door for business opportunities. CNBC reported last month that the “cream of French industry and politics are launching a bid to forge business links with Iran ahead of the lifting of international sanctions on the country.” A high-powered delegation visited Tehran in September to lay the groundwork for restoring robust trade between the two countries.
In sum, Iranian President Rouhani is looking forward to his trip to Europe as a means to demonstrate his regime’s full return to the “international community.” The highly popular global spiritual leader Pope Francis and economically desperate President François Hollande will serve as his spiritual and commercial props. And there will be no significant price for Iran to pay as the feckless P5+1 negotiators, led by President Obama, will at most slap the Iranian regime on the wrist as it openly flouts at least one key element of the already disastrous nuclear deal.