The recent assassination attempt on Salman Rushdie - the British-American novelist and author of the book "The Satanic Verses" and public enemy of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who in 1989 called for the writer's death via fatwa - has once again drawn all eyes to an Islamic Republic of Iran that has been in the media spotlight for much of the summer. International efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement, which has been in place since the beginning of the year, as well as attempts to quantify the impact of concessions that have grown steadily over the past few weeks, seem to make Iran a priority issue for the West.
However, despite the apparent general benefit of reconstructing an agreement that, on the one hand, limits the threat of Iranian uranium enrichment - the key to the construction of nuclear weapons - and, on the other, allows the Islamic Republic to free itself from the sanctions that have been suffocating its economy for years, the risks involved in reactivating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) are many if the Western "red lines" are forgotten - which they should be.
This question was addressed by Jonathan Schanzer, Senior Vice President for Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and former US Treasury Department terrorist financing analyst, during the webinar "The Iranian Threat Now: to Salman Rushdie, Israel and the Free World". The presentation was organised by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA) and led by the organisation's senior research analyst, Sean Durns.
The starting point for Schanzer, who is also the author of the book Gaza conflict 2021, was the regional destabilisation of the Middle East. Following the departure of US troops from Afghanistan, the researcher explained, it is not only the progressive consolidation of terrorist groups such as Hamas in Palestine or Hezbollah in Lebanon that has contributed to instability and insecurity in the area. The arrival of Joe Biden as Trump's successor in the US presidency - a leader who Iran apparently does not perceive as a threat - also seems to have led to an increase in Iranian interference in many of its neighbouring countries. This interference also involves Tehran's support for these "proxies", these groups linked to the Ayatollahs' regime.
According to Schanzer, after the end of the Iranian war (1980-1988), it was not long before the first hints of the Islamic Republic's intentions to export its regime to other neighbouring countries arrived. Tehran thus began the long road of foreign interference that has led it to the present day. For the vice-president of the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies (FIDD), the aforementioned Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Houthis in Yemen, and policies favourable to Persian interests in Somalia, are just some examples of what he called "Iran's long arm", which has even been linked to terrorist attacks in Argentina and Bulgaria.
Now, moreover, Iran's improved military and weapons capabilities - among which Schanzer highlighted the 9A Qadr (a type of precision-guided munition, or PGM), the first generation of bombs that Tehran is capable of delivering from the air, and which it has built on US general purpose (unguided) bombs - are yet another cause for concern in the Middle East. Especially for Israel, one of Iran's main regional antagonists as a US ally, and a staunch opponent of the nuclear programme.
But it was undoubtedly the negotiations between the G5+1 countries (Germany, China, France, the United Kingdom and Russia + the United States) and Iran for the reactivation of the JCPOA that became the focus of Schanzer's presentation. According to the expert, the release of the economic sanctions imposed on Tehran would allow the country to use the approximately 150 billion dollars a year - now used to pay international fines - to continue financing its proxies, destabilising the region, and eventually relaunch its nuclear programme.
"We must try to resolve all these issues diplomatically," Schanzer said, "but we must take all these issues into account," he added, also warning of Iran's progressive rapprochement with Russia - a long-time ally - in the context of the invasion of Ukraine. In this sense, the FDD vice-president pointed to Israel's role as an obstacle to Iranian interests in the Middle East, since the Hebrew state is waging a "war of wars" against Iran. An asymmetric campaign directed against Persian assets, both conventional military and nuclear, has resulted - for example - in cyber attacks, and is raising tensions in the region.
And while Schanzer's conclusion on the Iranian situation domestically is that "the solution has to come from the Iranians themselves", internationally, he believes that what the US must do is "listen to its allies in the region", rather than making the same concessions - and increasing concessions - that the Obama administration made before Biden. Washington must prevent Iran from "continuing to humiliate the West" and becoming a nuclear state.
Americas Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.