By now we know all about the pallets of cash that suspiciously coincided with the release of American prisoners, and the secret side deals between Iran and the IAEA—not that we know what they entail, that part is still secret— but it seems that even the public portions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, the Iran Nuclear Deal) were worse than we knew. Seven men released from U.S custody and another fourteen fugitives whose charges were dropped are now known to have been far more serious threats to national security than was previously disclosed. As Politico reports:
Three of the fugitives allegedly sought to lease Boeing aircraft for an Iranian airline that authorities say had supported Hezbollah, the U.S.-designated terrorist organization. A fourth, Behrouz Dolatzadeh, was charged with conspiring to buy thousands of U.S.-made assault rifles and illegally import them into Iran.
A fifth, Amin Ravan, was charged with smuggling U.S. military antennas to Hong Kong and Singapore for use in Iran. U.S. authorities also believe he was part of a procurement network providing Iran with high-tech components for an especially deadly type of IED used by Shiite militias to kill hundreds of American troops in Iraq.
What’s more, the decision to drop these cases had and continues to have a profound knock-on effect, as the Justice Department, FBI, and related agencies involved in counter-proliferation efforts were ordered to hold off, have scaled back, lost leads, or been forced to discontinue action against key suspects. More:
Through action in some cases and inaction in others, the White House derailed its own much-touted National Counterproliferation Initiative at a time when it was making unprecedented headway in thwarting Iran’s proliferation networks. In addition, the POLITICO investigation found that Justice and State Department officials denied or delayed requests from prosecutors and agents to lure some key Iranian fugitives to friendly countries so they could be arrested. Similarly, Justice and State, at times in consultation with the White House, slowed down efforts to extradite some suspects already in custody overseas, according to current and former officials and others involved in the counterproliferation effort. [….]
“A lot of people were furious; they had cases in the pipeline for months, in some cases years, and then, all of a sudden, they were gone — all because they were trying to sell the nuke deal,” a former Department of Commerce counterproliferation agent said. “Things fell apart after that. There are some really good cases out there and they are not going forward. They just let them die on the vine.”
As we’ve written before, the Iran nuclear deal was a gift to Iranian hardliners who, in return for delaying their nuclear ambitions, were rewarded with carte blanche for all of their other activities by an Obama administration that was willing to turn a blind eye in order to preserve the deal.
As Secretary of State Tillerson has noted, while Iran has remained compliant on the nuclear portion, their other activities constitute “alarming ongoing provocations.” The Trump administration, by understanding the threat posed to U.S. interests by Iran’s non-nuclear activities, including these global smuggling operations that support Iran’s deadly agenda, seems likely to change the calculus on U.S. policy towards Iran.