Trump’s Iran Notice
Tehran tests the new President with another ballistic missile launch.
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Opinion Journal Video: Foundation for Defense of Democracies Senior Iran Analyst Behnam Ben Taleblu on Tehran’s latest provocation. Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images.
Jan. 31, 2017 7:30 p.m. ET
One early test for the Trump Administration will be how it enforces the nuclear deal with Iran, and that question has become more urgent with Iran’s test last weekend of another ballistic missile.
The test of a medium-range, home-grown Khorramshahr missile is Tehran’s twelfth since it signed the nuclear deal with the U.S. and its diplomatic partners in 2015. John Kerry, then Secretary of State, insisted that the deal barred Iran from developing or testing ballistic missiles. But that turned out to be a self-deception at best, as the U.N. Security Council resolution merely “called upon” Iran not to conduct such missile tests, rather than barring them.
Iran has little reason to stop such tests because the penalties for doing them have been so light. The Obama Administration responded with weak sanctions on a few Iranian entities and individuals, even as it insisted that Iran is complying with the overall deal and deserves more sanctions relief. In December Boeing signed a $16 billion deal to sell 80 passenger planes to Iran, never mind that the regime uses its airliners to ferry troops and materiel to proxies in Syria.
President Trump has offered contradictory opinions about that sale, but he has been unequivocal in his opposition to what he calls the “disastrous” Iran deal. In a call Sunday with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, the President pledged to enforce the Iran deal “rigorously,” and on Monday the Administration requested an emergency Security Council meeting to discuss the latest test.
That meeting probably won’t yield much, thanks to the usual Russian obstruction, but it will put a spotlight on the willingness of allies such as Britain to do more to uphold an agreement the enforcement mechanisms of which they were once eager to trumpet. Whatever happened to the “snapback economic sanctions” that were supposed to be the West’s insurance policy against Iran’s cheating?
The Administration could also warn Iran that the Treasury Department will bar global banks from conducting dollar transactions with their Iranian counterparts in the event of another test, and that it will rigorously enforce “know your customer” rules for foreign companies doing business with counterparts in the Islamic Republic, many of which are fronts for the Revolutionary Guards.
The U.S. needs to provide allies with military reassurance against the Iranian threat. Supplying Israel with additional funds to develop its sophisticated Arrow III anti-ballistic missile system would send the right message, as would an offer to Saudi Arabia to sell Lockheed Martin’s high-altitude Thaad ABM system. The State Department and Pentagon will have to explore diplomatic and military options in case the deal unravels.
What the Administration can’t afford is to allow the latest test to pass without a response. That would tell Iranians they can develop missiles and threaten neighbors with impunity. Mr. Trump is keen to show he will honor his campaign promises, and charting a tougher course against Iran is one of them.