News of the Israel Defense Forces interception of an Iranian cargo ship loaded with rockets and other unspecified arms destined for the Gaza Strip comes as no surprise. It is a stark reminder to the international community that there is more to dealing with Iran than getting to an acceptable and verifiable agreement on the nuclear weapons issue.
Iran has been a state sponsor of international terrorist groups, including Hezbollah and Hamas for decades. It seamlessly coordinates with its great regional ally, the Assad regime of Syria, the transfer of military materiel to terrorist groups in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. The Iranian regime unabashedly promotes violence and terrorism against the State of Israel.
Both President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry made very clear this week that the U.S. has a tough posture in its ongoing negotiations with Iran over its nuclear weapons program. And both repeatedly underscored the U.S. commitment to Israel's security.
As Secretary Kerry told the AIPAC Policy Conference: "We're not looking at this and saying trust, but verify. Our approach is a much more complex and dangerous world - it's verify and verify. And that's what we intend to do...This is not a process that is open-ended. This is not a process that is about trusting Tehran. This is about testing Tehran. And you can be sure that if Iran fails this test, America will not fail Israel. That, I promise."
Of course, Secretary Kerry was referring to Iran's nuclear weapons program. His words can and should apply as strongly to Iran's support for groups who continually pose a direct threat to Israel's security.
The IDF interception of these arms intended to target Israeli civilians must serve as a deadly reminder to the U.S. and the international community of Iran's extremist and violent ideology and policies. Iran's ongoing collusion with Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and other radical groups in the Gaza Strip should reinforce international skepticism about Iran's true intentions and clearly demonstrate that any agreement must ensure that Iran's nuclear weapons program is dismantled, with ironclad safeguards and monitoring mechanisms.
The U.S. and the other members of the P5+1 cannot allow the delicate negotiations to distract them from Iran's other activities and silence their condemnation of Iran for its sponsorship of terrorists, its ongoing human rights abuses, anti-Semitic propaganda, and other campaigns and policies aimed at destabilizing the Middle East.
This is a vital security interest for Israel and all U.S. allies in the region.
And the implications of this go farther than the nuclear negotiations. Failing to adequately address Iran's support for deadly violence in the region makes it more, not less, difficult to reach the kind of breakthrough in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians that President Obama and Secretary Kerry are working so hard achieve.