Last week, the deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Brigadier General Hossein Salami boasted that Iran has ten times as many missiles as its Hezbollah proxy and threatened that those missiles “are ready to hit enemies and targets from different parts of the country.” By conservative estimates, Hezbollah has accumulated a stockpile of roughly 100,000 missiles. If Salami’s boasts are to be believed, that means that the Iranians have accumulated a staggering missile arsenal of 1,000,000 or roughly one missile for every 8.5 Israelis.
The antagonistic comments followed two Iranian missile launches fired from Iran’s eastern Alborz mountain range. The missiles are said to have a range of 2,000 kilometers and are believed to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads. Written in both Hebrew and Farsi and emblazoned on the missiles was the phrase, “Israel must be wiped out from the face of the earth.”
If the threats written on the missiles were not clear enough, the head of the IRGC’s aerospace division, Amir Ali Hajizadeh, emphasized that the missile tests were designed to demonstrate that Israel was well within range of Iran’s missiles. He noted that the missiles were intended to “confront the Zionist regime” and that “Israel is surrounded by Islamic countries and it will not last long in a war. It will collapse even before being hit by these missiles.” Not to be outdone, other Iranian political and military officials weighed in with similar threats and bombast.
It appears that the launches were timed to coincide with Vice President Joe Biden’s recent trip to Israel. In response to the launches, Biden stated that “A nuclear-armed Iran is an absolutely unacceptable threat to Israel, to the region and the United States. And I want to reiterate which I know people still doubt here: If in fact they break the deal, we will act.” Biden however, qualified his remarks by stating, “And all their conventional activity outside of the deal is still beyond the deal, and we will and are attempting to act wherever we can find it.” The latter comment was deliberately designed to provide the administration with some wiggle room to argue that the Iranian missile launches constitute conventional weapons tests and therefore fall beyond the scope of the provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Biden’s comments were typically long on rhetoric and short on action. Moreover, they convey a sense of ambiguity with no clear sense of direction. UNSC resolution 2231 clearly prohibits Iran from test firing nuclear capable ballistic missiles but In fact, the Iranians have conducted multiple nuclear-capable ballistic missile launches since the signing of the JCPOA. The Obama administration has all but ignored these transgressions opting instead to either overlook them or impose pinprick sanctions on specific individuals and entities that have had no meaningful effect on the Iranians. These sanctions are designed to mollify an increasingly restive and distrustful congress rather than make an impact on Iran’s nefarious ambitions.
Along with reestablishing diplomatic relations with the despotic Castro brothers, Obama has touted the JCPOA as his crowning foreign policy achievement and has conveyed the impression, by both word and deed, that he will do nothing to derail it even if the Iranians blatantly violate its terms. This mindset is precisely what worried many experts and policy makers before the Iran deal was signed. More importantly, the Iranians are cognizant of this fact and continued American and international inaction in the face of repeated Iranian violations of the JCPOA will only invite further breaches.
The Iranians are currently testing the administration and are well aware that Obama will remain complacent during his remaining time in office. The missile launches are part of a multi-pronged effort by the Iranians to see just how far they can push the envelope and judging by the U.S. response thus far, it appears that they’ve got a lot more room for maneuver.
Iran’s repeated breaches of the JCPOA must be viewed in the wider context of its regional and international machinations. Its support of the Assad regime in Syria has directly led to the emergence of ISIS and has invited Russian involvement. Its support of proxy armies and terror groups in Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen and Iraq represents an attempt to secure wider regional domination and control of two important regional waterways – the Bab Al Mandab strait and the Strait of Hormuz, chokepoints controlling much of the world’s maritime traffic.
The Iranians are recognized as the world’s premier state-sponsor of international terrorism, having hatched dozens of terror plots in countries across five continents. The latest plot was uncovered by Bahraini authorities on January 6. They managed to crack an Iranian-Hezbollah scheme to foment unrest in the kingdom through a series of bombings. Bahrain is home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet and more than 7,000 U.S. service members are deployed there. The site’s choosing by Iran was no accident.
Iran’s seizure of 10 U.S. sailors and their heavily armed assault boats in the Arabian Gulf on January 12 under still as yet unclear circumstances represents another Iranian attempt to test American resolve. Obama allowed the humiliation to go unanswered and his secretary of state even thanked the Iranians thus further emboldening the mullahs.
Obama tried to sell the American public on the nonsensical notion that the JCPOA would usher in more moderate Iranian leaders but the opposite has in fact occurred. The Iranians have only grown more extreme in both rhetoric and action and their latest missile test launches buttress this fact. The only thing the JCPOA has managed to accomplish is fill Iran’s coffers with $150 billion and allow the mullahs to conduct secret nuclear experiments at their top secret Parchin facility, a facility that still remains off limits to international inspectors despite the JCPOA.
Obama’s precious JCPOA, the crown jewel of his meek foreign policy accomplishments, has made the world a more dangerous place. Like the Munich Diktat of 1938 it will lead us to the path of war. It is now only a matter of “When” not “If,” and judging by the administration’s vacillation and fecklessness, the “When” will likely arrive sooner than we think.