Beyond Decertification: Stopping Iran’s Reign of Terror

  • by:
    • Jonathan Greenblatt, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League
  • October 11, 2017
    This article originally appeared in

In recent weeks, we have once against seen a flare up around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran Deal, this time over whether President Trump will recertify the deal, as he is required to do every 90 days.

Two years later after the signing of the JCPOA, it almost feels like we are back where we started.

But we are not. Not at all. And that is the real issue.

Indeed, two years later, we can argue about Iranian compliance and inspections regimes. We can dither about domestic political processes. But what we cannot argue about is the staggering loss of life in the Middle East, due to Iran’s belligerence. What we cannot argue with is the ascendance of a hateful, violent ideology that literally assures further violence. What we cannot argue with is the creeping normalization of an abnormal regime whose values clash, not with Western values, but with human values.

And that is what we should be talking about — How do we stop Iran’s reign of terror in its tracks.

ADL cares about how the international community engages with Iran, because of our century-old mission: to fight anti-Semitism, promote Jewish security, and to secure justice and fair treatment for all.

In terms of loss of life, Iran is directly responsible for the prolonging of the Syrian Civil War that killed nearly half a million people and dislodged over 11 million people, the largest refugee crisis since WW2. The unrepentant support of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for the brutal dictator Bashar Assad sustained a ruler who employed barrel bombs to murder his own citizens; who gassed dozens of people to death in a manner that evoked Saddam Hussein; whose troops committed horrific human rights violationsthat spurred worldwide revulsion — except in Tehran where he was hailed as hero. Just last week, a senior Iranian parliamentary delegation visitedDamascus and praised Assad for “defeat[ing] plans by the axis of America, the Zionist regime and their regional allies.”

It is inarguable that the Iranian regime single-handedly propped up a ruthless autocrat who literally has ground his own country to dust.

But this should not surprise us. Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq used equally ruthless tactics to murder as many as 500 American servicemen deployed to Iraq to help rebuild a broken nation. Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Yemen have used equally reprehensible tactics to wreak havoc on that country and spark a violent civil war. And Israeli officials believe that the Iranian-backed Hezbollah terror organization in Lebanon has gained control over elements of the country’s military.

You don’t need to be a social scientist to see a pattern.

But beyond the terror that Iran already has spread across the Middle East, it is undeniable that they promise to wreak even more violence in the years ahead. Iran continues to threaten to obliterate Israel, engages in extreme anti-Americanism and anti-Israelism, refuses to surrender its belligerent ballistic missile programis the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism, engages in state-sponsored anti-Semitismand commits a litany of egregious human rights violations against Bahai and other vulnerable minority communities including women, LGBTQ, the press, bloggers and political activists. Each one of these offenses alone should compel us to action, but collectively it should shock all of us out of our complacency.

Should President Trump decide to decertify the JCPOA, the spotlight will be on Congress to take action on Iran. This will provide an important opportunity to turn attention to the most urgent question — how do we stop Iran’s reign of terror in its tracks. This can and should be done while ensuring the JCPOA is fully enforced in collaboration with our allies in the international community. Steps Congress can take include:

  • International leadership to hold the Iranian regime responsible for its deplorable human rights record.
  • Targeting Iran’s continued support for international terrorism, including arming and training Hezbollah. Sanctions against the IRGC are an important part of this effort.
  • Committing to working with world leaders to enact tougher sanctions on Iran’s continued building and testing of their illicit ballistic missile program.
  • Engaging with Israel on the so-called Syrian ceasefire, in order to more fully address Israel’s security concerns regarding Iran’s growing presence in Syria.

This does not mean taking steps that would derail the JCPOA. There are compelling security and diplomatic reasons, well- articulated by experts such as Amos Yadlin, that a reimposition of sanctions and an unraveling of the deal would not only have a negative impact on America’s international leadership and foreign affairs priorities, but could bring immediate threats from Iran.

But there is an opportunity now to reset the terms of this debate. We need to resist the call for war but launch a campaign for peace with Iran — and call on the country to foster peace for its minorities, make peace with its neighbors, and support peace for the entire region. When Iran is prepared to take these steps, that will be a conversation worth certifying.

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