The United States is on the verge of giving up its influence in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. The most obvious indication of this abdication of power and influence is the flawed — nay disastrous — nuclear agreement with Iran. But it is also confirmed by the de facto U.S. acquiescence in Iranian violations of freedom of navigation, a cornerstone of American foreign policy for decades.
Concessions the United States has made to secure a final deal with Iran have made a mockery of the U.S. commitment to nuclear nonproliferation. For one thing, Iran claims that sanctions will be lifted immediately while the Obama administration says they will be phased out slowly. In addition, we have accepted a very high number of centrifuges (5,000, as well as a research-and-development program in place); failed to include missiles in the agreement; and acquiesced to Iranian limitations on permissible inspections, including Iran’s refusal to allow access to facilities where most experts believe that the Iranians have carried out weaponization activities.
By accepting an Iranian enrichment program at all, the United States and its allies have signaled to other countries that there is no real cost to such conduct. If Iran can violate the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in order to become a nuclear-threshold state, why can’t others follow suit? The ironic consequence of the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal is that it may very well unleash a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. The Saudis said as much on the eve of a meeting with President Obama earlier this month.
The Iranians have also begun to test the United States at sea. In April, Iranian patrol boats seized a Marshall Islands-flagged container ship transiting the Strait of Hormuz. The United States responded by employing U.S. Navy combatants to accompany U.S. and British-flagged cargo ships in the Persian Gulf. But only a day after these missions had been suspended, Iran thumbed its nose at American power by forcing a Singapore-flagged cargo ship to seek refuge in a UAE port.
Of course, these are only the latest Iranian provocations. From the Islamic Republic’s support of Assad of Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas, to its sponsorship of Houthi rebels in Yemen, Iran has made it clear that it seeks regional hegemony in the Middle East. That is not astounding. What is astounding, to most serious analysts, is the degree to which the Obama administration has acquiesced in Iran’s quest.
Two scholars, Michael Doran of the Hudson Institute and Colin Dueck of George Mason University, have suggested that this acquiescence is…