When the administration set out to sell the Iran deal, it recognized that regional allies would have to be reassured that the United States would not stand idly by and allow Iran to wreak havoc in the region. In May 2015, President Obama invited Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders for a summit at Camp David, where he pledged that the U.S. would stand by its GCC partners in the face of Iran’s “destabilizing activities in the region.”
But Iran’s aggressive tactics continued unabated, so the president reiterated his commitment eight months later, saying, “We remain steadfast in opposing Iran’s destabilizing behavior, including against Israel and our Gulf partners and its support for violent proxies in places like Syria and Yemen.” But it is now clear, one year since the signing of the Iran deal, that Iran’s threatening and destabilizing behavior in the region has not diminished. In the words of CENTCOM Commander Gen. Joseph L. Votel, Iran has become “more aggressive in the days since the agreement.” Iran’s involvement in the Syrian, Iraqi and Yemeni conflicts “deepened” in 2015, according to the Director of National Intelligence. The DNI went further still:
Iran — the foremost state sponsor of terrorism — continues to exert its influence in regional crises in the Middle East through the International Revolutionary Guard Corps—Qods Force (IRGC-QF), its terrorist partner Lebanese Hezbollah, and proxy groups. It also provides military and economic aid to its allies in the region. Iran and Hezbollah remain a continuing terrorist threat to U.S. interests and partners worldwide.
Consider, for example, Iran’s smuggling of weapons to militants throughout the region. According to the State Department, Iran publicly confirms that it “arms Hezbollah with advanced long-range Iranian-manufactured missiles, in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1701 and 1747.” Just days after the announcement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah asserted that the deal would not stand in the way of Iranian support for Hezbollah. How right he was. In June 2016, Nasrallah boasted that all of “Hezbollah’s … weapons and rockets come from the Islamic Republic of Iran.” While this is not necessarily true — Hezbollah supplements its Iranian arsenal using its own criminal networks which are expert at money-laundering and weapons smuggling — Iran’s direct support of Hezbollah, and Nasrallah’s forthrightness on the topic, is troubling. In July 2015, an IRGC general boasted that Iran, with Hezbollah, had amassed “more than 100,000 missiles” that “are ready to fly from Lebanon” to Israel.
Over the past year, Bahraini authorities have uncovered multiple weapons shipments from Iran to Shiite militants there, as well. In September 2015, Bahraini authorities discovered a bomb-making facility with 1.5 tons of high-grade explosives in a raid on a IRGC-linked terror cell. In August 2015, explosives used in an attack on Bahraini security forces were, according to Bahrain’s information minister, “very similar” to explosives seized by authorities in July 2015 that “came from Iran.” In November 2015, yet another bomb-making facility was discovered in Bahrain.