The State Department released its annual report on terrorism on Friday, and surprise, surprise, Iran—with whom diplomats in other parts of Foggy Bottom are negotiating feverishly to secure a final nuclear deal—is prominently mentioned:
Iran continued to sponsor terrorist groups around the world, principally through its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF). These groups included Lebanese Hizballah, several Iraqi Shia militant groups, Hamas, and Palestine Islamic Jihad. Iran, Hizballah, and other Shia militia continued to provide support to the Asad regime, dramatically bolstering its capabilities, prolonging the civil war in Syria, and worsening the human rights and refugee crisis there. Iran supplied quantities of arms to Syria and continued to send arms to Syria through Iraqi airspace in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions. Finally, Iran used Iraqi Shia militants and high profile appearances by Qods Force officials on the front lines of Iraq to claim credit for military successes against ISIL and to belittle coalition airstrikes and U.S. contributions to the Government of Iraq’s ongoing fight against ISIL.
This is awkward reading, to say the least, for an Administration in the midst of a grand outreach to Tehran. The selection above is only the paragraph from the preface (or global “strategic assessment”); there’s much more detail buried further down in the report, and none of it screams “partner for peace.”
Of course, it’s not like the White House is unaware Iran is sponsoring both terrorism throughout the world and proxy groups throughout the Middle East. It simply thinks that the best way to rein in Tehran is to bring it back within the community of nations, through a nuke deal, and then the modernizing, moderating trends in Persian society will reassert themselves over time. But a lot of mischief is hidden in that “and then.” The White House has yet to fully address why an Iranian government, when it receives the estimated $150 billion windfall from unfrozen assets that’s to follow sanctions relief plus the benefits of reopened trade, will not significantly increase its terror-sponsorship in the short term.
Tellingly, at about the same time the report was being prepped for release, Iran’s energy sector was making preparations for some kind of deal to be signed and for sanctions to be lifted. Though negotiations with European companies that have worked in Iran until as late as 2010 (companies like Norway’s Statoil, France’s Total, and Italy’s Eni) will not get started until the deal is signed, Iran’s oil ministry is signaling that it will be offering longer and more profitable contracts in order to entice as much as $185 billion in investments over the next six years. Iranian officials estimate that if the investment starts pouring in, Iran could be pumping as many as a million barrels per day more than it is now within six months.
There’s the oil, the windfall, the hedge funds, and a fistful of other industries opening up—Iran is due to make a lot of money. We’ve always maintained the issue with the nuclear deal isn’t just the nukes, it’s what kind of Middle East it creates. Put simply, after all that cash comes in (if a deal is signed), what will next year’s report look like?