The unprecedented sanctions passed by House lawmakers last Tuesday and the Senate last Thursday are a milestone achievement in countering the Iranian regime's belligerence and fixing some of the key flaws contained in the nuclear deal hammered between Iran and world powers in 2015.
Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the nuclear pact is formally known, Iran was effectively given a free pass on all its non-nuclear activities as long as it committed to limiting, not dismantling, its nuclear program. The JCPOA was the nucleus of the Obama administration's Iran policy.
In contrast, Trump has called it "the worst deal ever negotiated" and has assigned a White House team to find a credible case for declining Iran's compliance with the accord.
In the two years since the signing of the agreement, Iran has exploited the JCPOA's loopholes and economic incentives to speed up its ballistic missile program, expand its terrorist activities in neighboring countries, and ramp up its domestic human rights violations without fear of retribution from the international community. Fearing Iran would walk away from the deal, Obama refrained from dealing any of those activities in earnest.
Although sanctions had been previously imposed against Iran's terrorist activities and human rights violations, the new measure is significant because it directly targets the entirety of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), the military body that runs Iran's foreign terrorism portfolio, its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons program, and is largely responsible for the crackdown on dissidents and violation of the Iranian people's most basic rights.
According to the "Countering Adversarial Nations Through Sanctions Act," as the new bill is called, the IRGC is designated as a terrorist entity under Executive Order 13224.
The designation will freeze all assets linked to IRGC and its members. It also prohibits American individuals or entities from establishing financial, business, services or other affiliations with any individuals directly or indirectly associated to the IRGC.
As the IRGC has encroached over Iran's economy over the past years, this will put severe strains on Iran's funding of terrorism and weapons development.
The Iranian regime has a history of circumventing sanctions, but this time, it will prove much more difficult, if not impossible, because of the severity and comprehensiveness of the sanctions. Accordingly, Iranian regime officials have described the new round of sanctions as a "black hole," "mother of all sanctions," and "nuclear JCPOA."
In a statement, the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) welcomed the measure as an essential step in rectifying the damaging policy of appeasement that previously dominated the policy toward Iran.
"The IRGC serves as the guarantee to preserve the entirety of the religious fascism ruling Iran," the statement reads. "In the past 28 years, the Iranian regime's supreme leader Ali Khamenei has placed a vast portion of the wealth and resources of the Iranian people under IRGC's control, enabling it to plunder a large portion of Iran's economy."
The NCRI underlined that the sanctions need to be complemented with "the eviction of the IRGC and its affiliated militia particularly from Syria and Iraq as well as the recognition of the Iranian people's right to overthrow the clerical regime."
Democratic regime change in Iran, a goal that the NCRI has supported for years, is now getting traction across the world. Last month, at an NCRI gathering in Paris, prominent dignitaries and politicians from the U.S. and other countries called for regime change in Iran. The Trump administration is considering support for regime change as part of its policy toward Iran, which is currently under review.
Paralyzing the IRGC and assuming a tougher stance against Iran's nefarious activities can ensure that regime change happens without the need for foreign military invasion and another violent conflict in the region.
Amir Basiri (@amir_bas) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is an Iranian human rights activist.
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