March 8, 2016 | USA Today

No signs of moderation in Iran: Opposing view

Don’t buy the hype about a win in the recent Iranian elections by “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani. As former undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, who negotiated the Iran nuclear agreement on behalf of the Obama administration, recently put it: “Rouhani is not a moderate, he is a hard-liner.” Real moderates were barred from running.

Last summer, Rouhani and other hard-liners negotiated a nuclear deal that gives them a patient pathway to nuclear weapons. They guaranteed the regime more time and money to perfect advanced centrifuges, warheads and missiles. The deal they cut will make their drive for a nuclear weapons program unstoppable.

This dangerous agreement, however, shouldn’t be shredded on Day 1 of the next presidency. A unilateral move like that, without enlisting the Europeans, would give Iran a political victory and isolate the United States. Instead, the next president should demand that Iran cease its rogue behavior on a range of other fronts, or pay a price for its violations.

Here’s how: The nuclear deal permits sanctions on Tehran for non-nuclear activities such as missile tests, terrorism and human rights abuses. Iran’s regime shows no sign of moderating its behavior in these areas. Nor has it stopped taking American hostages, backing Bashar Assad’s slaughter in Syria, fomenting sectarian unrest in Iraq and Yemen, or persecuting dissenters at home.

The next president should target the sectors of Iran’s economy that support these activities. This means new sanctions on Iran’s missile program; designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps for terrorism; and squeezing the economic nodes that fund the regime’s vast system of domestic repression. A good place to start would be the estimated $95 billion in investments controlled by Iran’s supreme leader.

The regime will likely threaten to walk away from the nuclear deal. Good. Let it. At that point, Washington will be positioned to impose new crippling economic sanctions and to take other coercive steps with more international support. If doing so prompts Iran to unravel the deal, we can pin the blame on the mullahs — where it belongs.

Mark Dubowitz is executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where he leads projects on Iran and nonproliferation. He is also head of its Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn