FPI Testimony: The Future of Iranian Terror and Its Threat to the US Homeland

FPI Senior Policy Analyst Tzvi Kahn
Testimony before the House Committee on Homeland Security's
Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence
February 11, 2016

Chairman King, Ranking Member Higgins, and distinguished members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you this morning about the Iranian threat.

In this testimony, I analyze the impact of the July 2015 nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), on Iran’s strategic decision-making, regional and domestic ambitions, and policy toward the United States. I specifically attempt to explain why this agreement has failed to spur a rapprochement in U.S.-Iranian relations and instead exacerbated Tehran’s hostility.

The JCPOA has not changed Iran’s long-time objectives in the Middle East: regional hegemony, the contraction of U.S. forces and influence, and the subjugation of Sunni Islamic states beneath a dominant Shiite crescent. The nuclear deal in fact makes these ends more achievable, since it provides Iran with billions of dollars in sanctions relief. Despite this opportunity, the leadership in Tehran fears that the JCPOA constitutes a ruse to infiltrate its body politic and moderate its radical Islamist ideology. As a result, Iran has increased its aggression against the United States and its allies in order to demonstrate that the nuclear deal will not alter its commitment to its vision of the Islamic Revolution.

As Tehran takes more destructive measures to demonstrate its Islamist bona fides, the JCPOA has also provided the Iranian regime with an opportunity to leverage the agreement as a bargaining chip in its dealings with Washington. Recognizing that the JCPOA’s preservation amounts to the Obama administration’s foremost foreign policy priority, Tehran has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from the deal in order to deter the United States from imposing any meaningful consequences for its aggression. This ploy has enabled the Islamist regime to set the terms of its relationship with America and advance its extremist agenda with relative impunity.

To reverse this dynamic, the United States must adopt a paradigm shift that treats Iran’s nuclear program and non-nuclear aggression as interrelated problems that require a comprehensive strategy. It must seek to raise the costs of Tehran’s belligerence by imposing meaningful penalties for any type of Iranian misbehavior — nuclear or non-nuclear. It should make clear not only that it does not consider Iran part of the solution to the region’s problems, particularly Syria’s civil war, but also that it actively opposes its rise as a regional power. The past seven months of Iranian provocations already provide ample warning of Tehran’s malign plans in the post-nuclear deal era. Now America must act to stop them.

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