The Troubling Bulletin From Tehran

More than 13 months after the United States and its partners announced they had reached a landmark agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, a series of disturbing revelations, coupled with Iran’s continued belligerence, continues to raise red flags.

Though the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, was technically limited only to matters pertaining to the Iranian nuclear program and the easing of international sanctions against Tehran, it was broadly assumed that it would herald a new beginning in U.S.-Iran relations, a goal that has eluded consecutive American administrations.

Yet with their words and actions, the Iranians are making it clear that they have no intention of engaging in any sort of détente with the nation they perceive as the “Great Satan.”

On Sunday, in a meeting with commanders at an air defense base in Tehran, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei made it crystal clear how he views the United States.

“We should increase the armed forces’ preparedness to the extent that the enemy doesn’t even allow itself to think about aggression,” Khamenei declared. “We are facing such an enemy which doesn’t respect our nation’s right of defense and actually wants us to remain defenseless so that they can launch aggression against our country whenever they want,” he added.

Hours earlier, underscoring Iran’s outlook, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Navy Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, asserted that Tehran has confined Washington’s power in the sea.

“The U.S. doesn’t enjoy the power to confront Iran militarily,” the FARS news agency quoted Fadavi as saying.

He was presumably referring to the fact that last Wednesday, U.S. ships had three encounters with IRGC boats in the North Arabian Gulf. One Iranian boat came within 200 yards of the USS Tempest. The American vessel repeatedly tried bridge-to-bridge radio calls and sent out warning flares, but to no avail. It was only after the USS Squall, which was with the USS Tempest, fired three warning shots from its .50-caliber gun that the Iranian ship turned away.

“This situation presented a drastically increased risk of collision, and the Iranian vessel refused to safely maneuver in accordance with internationally recognized maritime rules of the road,” U.S. Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban, spokesman for the Navy’s 5th Fleet, told the Associated Press.

The same Iranian boat that harassed the USS Tempest also crossed in front of the USS Stout three times at a high rate of speed in the same region. Urban called it an “unsafe intercept” and said the USS Stout, a guided missile destroyer, had to maneuver to avoid a collision.

In the third incident, three Iranian boats crossed in front of the USS Tempest at high speed, coming within 600 yards of the ship.

A day earlier, four small Iranian boats approached the USS Nitze at high speed in the Strait of Hormuz. The boats veered off after the American forces fired flares.

These were only the most recent in a string of incidents in which the Iranians have sought to harass and provoke American forces and inflame regional tensions.

In January, Iranian forces briefly detained 10 U.S. Navy sailors who mistakenly steered into Iranian waters. The Iranians boarded the boats, pointed their guns at the U.S. sailors and took them to an island where they were humiliated and held overnight.

Last December, Iranian ships fired rockets near a U.S. warship and other vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, and a month later flew an unarmed drone over the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.

In the meantime, historians and legal experts say that the $400 million cash delivery to Iran to repay a decades-old claim may be unprecedented in recent U.S. history. One historian contacted by the AP went all the way back to the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican-American War to find a similar episode.

Two days after sending $400 million in cash to Tehran, the U.S. sent another $1.3 billion in 13 separate payments of $99,999,999.99 and a final payment of about $10 million.

Citing “diplomatic sensitivities,” the administration declined to say whether these monies were also given in cash, and why the Treasury Department insisted on keeping the individual transactions under $100 million.

In the 1970s, Iran gave the American government $400 million for a shipment of U.S. military equipment. After Iran’s 1979 overthrow of the U.S.-backed shah and the U.S. embassy hostage crisis in Tehran, the weapons were never delivered. Iran has long demanded the money back — plus interest. The Obama administration agreed to hand over $1.7 billion.

Only time will tell whether the Iran nuclear deal will prove to be (1) a wise and safe alternative to war, as claimed by the Obama administration, (2) the global nightmare predicted by the Netanyahu government, that will pave the way for an Iranian nuclear bomb, or (3) something in between.

However, with each passing day, the messages from an ever-more-belligerent Iran and the actions of a White House which exhibits repeated signs of weakness and appeasement, lend credence to those who question the judgment of the Obama administration and the wisdom of this most controversial deal.