AJC Policy: Iran
The United States, European allies, and the international community must unite and stop the Iranian regime's regional aggression, end its quest for nuclear weapons, and curtail efforts to expand its conventional weapons program. It is only through international cooperation that we will succeed in countering the regime's repeated calls for the annihilation of Israel, end its support for Hezbollah and other terrorist proxies, suspend its assistance to the murderous Syrian Assad regime, and stop its pervasive human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrests, torture, unfair trials, executions, and religious persecution. Iran remains the greatest threat to regional stability in the Middle East and an ongoing menace to the security of the United States, Israel, and our allies around the world.
Iranian Regional Aggression and Support for Terrorist Proxies
Iran employs several tools for destabilization and destruction in the Middle East. Most effective has been its support of terrorist proxies, including Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis, and the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). The PMUs alone are responsible for killing hundreds of American forces in Iraq. Hezbollah is Iran's main terrorist proxy, sowing discord and spreading terror throughout the Middle East and beyond.
Hezbollah has sought to extend its reach beyond its military-terrorist activities and spread its influence by operating a welfare system and a political party. It ranks first among the ten wealthiest terrorist organizations with an estimated annual income of $1.1 billion, of which approximately $700 million a year is transferred from the Iranian authorities. The rest is raised through an international network of drugs and crime. Hezbollah's global footprint extends well beyond the Middle East, with support networks in Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, and North and South America. Its operatives use hubs around the world to recruit members, raise funds, procure weapons, smuggle drugs, conduct surveillance, and, when feasible, sow terror and destruction.
To reduce the threat of Hezbollah – and give the struggling people of Lebanon a chance to have a stable government that controls the entire territory of the country – the international community must designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization in its entirety. While several nations within the international community have – for political or possibly economic reasons – manufactured a false distinction between Hezbollah’s so-called military (terrorist) and political “wings,” this is a distinction of convenience that even Hezbollah’s own leaders reject. Hezbollah is controlled by a single coordinating council that oversees all of the group’s activities. The premise that Hezbollah has separate military and political wings does not reflect reality. The U.S., Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Germany, Honduras, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Paraguay, the United Kingdom, as well as the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council have all designated Hezbollah in its entirety as a terror organization. The European Union – and all members of the international community – should follow suit.
The JCPOA and Iran's Nuclear Ambitions
Today, Iran is unimpeded by the uranium-enrichment/stockpile limitations of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and in defiance of numerous UN resolutions. The regime continues to demonstrate its nuclear ambitions by advancing its uranium enrichment program and intercontinental ballistic missile program. Should Iran realize its nuclear goals, it poses an existential threat to Israel and numerous U.S. Arab allies. In that spirit, the U.S. and international community must work together to prevent Iran from achieving nuclear weapons capability by addressing the original shortcomings of the JCPOA – pursuing a coordinated, robust diplomatic and sanctions effort to effectively and enduringly counter Iran's weapons programs, its regional aggression and its support for terrorist proxies, while extending indefinitely the sunset provisions in the original accord that would have allowed a legal path to a nuclear bomb.
Iran's conventional weapons program
On July 28, 2020, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard raised red flags when it fired a missile at a replica of a U.S. aircraft carrier. The U.S. Navy condemned the act as "irresponsible and reckless," and an attempt by Iran "to intimidate and coerce." Yet, what makes this example of Iranian aggression all the more threatening is that on October 18, 2020, a long-standing United Nations arms embargo against Iran is set to expire – allowing Iran to purchase and proliferate new weapons across the region. The American intelligence community has expressed its concern that Iran will look to purchase new fighter aircraft that could imperil larger swaths of Europe and Asia.
The United States and other world powers must unite in their opposition to the expiration of the UN arms embargo on Iran. A country that is known for using proxies to coerce Middle Eastern governments to abide by its desires, a country that is developing factories to build precision guidance capabilities to shoot at Israel, a country that attacked the Abqaiq and the Khurais oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and oil tankers in the Arabia Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, and a country that transfers a wide range of weapons and military equipment to both state and nonstate actors, including terrorist organizations, should not be given a free pass by the international community to expand its conventional weapons program.
This policy paper is meant to be a resource for candidates. It is one of several that outlines AJC standpoints and policies on issues of core concern to our organization and our community.
AJC, founded in 1906, is the Jewish community’s global advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the security and well-being of the Jewish people and Israel, and to advance human rights and democratic values around the world. In addition to its New York headquarters and its Office of Policy and Diplomatic Affairs in Washington, D.C., AJC has 24 U.S. regional offices, 12 overseas posts, and 37 partnerships with Jewish communities and institutions worldwide.
For more information, please be in touch with Julie Rayman, AJC Deputy Director of Policy and Diplomatic Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-776-5430.