In the cartoon strip “Peanuts” there was a subplot involving Lucy, Charlie Brown and a football. Lucy, Charlie Brown’s nemesis, would succeed over and over again in convincing Charlie Brown to kick a football that she was holding — and, at the last moment, Lucy would always pull the football away leaving Charlie Brown lying on the ground. The subplot is so well known that it has become an American cultural metaphor for a situation in which someone allows himself to be repeatedly fooled by the same trick.
Lucy was a fictional character. All Charlie Brown ever suffered was injury to his pride.
But Iran is very real, and if we fall for its tricks yet again, the stakes are a great deal higher than a bruised ego and embarrassment.
In 2015 the Iranians took Barack Obama and his weak-kneed foreign-policy staff to the cleaners. Cowed by Iranian threats and the specter of an Iranian atomic bomb, Obama, John Kerry, and our always suspect European allies abandoned a 35-year-old policy of containment, handed over more than $155 billion in cash, and turned the Iranians loose to set the Middle East ablaze.
In exchange, we received a basket of illusory promises that the Iranians never had any intention of keeping. The Iranian ballistic missile program continued apace. Nuclear weapons work never really ceased. Facilities that were to be repurposed remained exactly as they were before our “deal.”
Iran ramped up its support for Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran doubled downon the building of Shia militia, Hezbollah clones, in Iraq. Iran aggressively pushed the pace and scope of its support to Houthi rebels in Yemen — and we’ve just seen the most recent result: a crippling attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil infrastructure.
Today, alarmed by the possibility that the Donald Trump administration means what it says about maximum sanctions and throttling Iran’s economy, the ayatollahs are trotting out precisely the same play they used on President Obama. Tehran recently announced that contrary to the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal it had put advanced centrifuges to workenriching uranium. It also made clear that it will enrich uranium beyond the 20 percent limit to which it had previously adhered. In practical terms, the only conceivable use for uranium enriched to the levels Tehran now intends would be for use in nuclear weapons.
Tehran also sent a formal letter to the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, announcing that it was walking away from all of its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal. In effect, the Iranians declared their intention to restart nuclear weapons work. This declaration coincided with news that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was preparing a report detailing the fact that Iran had ceased cooperation with IAEA inspectors on the ground in Iran.
All of this is occurring against a backdrop of seizures of merchant vessels by Iran and threats to close the Straits of Hormuz. All of it is designed for one purpose: to make us blink.
Predictably, Iranian threats are having an impact on our European allies, particularly France, which has made a great deal of money doing business with Tehran’s murderous regime. French President Macron has entered into negotiations with the Iranians, dangling promises of a $15 billioncredit line for Tehran and European waivers of U.S. sanctions in exchange for yet another grab bag of meaningless promises by the ayatollahs.
All of this comes, of course, because President Trump’s sanctions are really beginning to bite. Iran’s economy is overwhelmingly dependent on money it earns from the sale of oil and natural gas. U.S. sanctions have crushed that business. In April of 2018 Iran shipped over 2.5 million barrels of crude oil a day. That figure is now down to about 200,000 barrels per day and headed for the floor.
Barack Obama’s nuclear deal and his abandonment of sanctions meant boom times in Tehran. The country’s economy expanded by 16 percent in 2016, but resumptions of sanctions dealt Iran a deathblow. The Iranian economy contracted 3.9 percent last year, and forecasts indicate that it will shrink by 6 percent this year. Inflation is rampant, and the value of the rial is plunging.
President Trump has not simply reimposed sanctions and ratcheted them up. He has also directly targeted the rulers of Iran and has designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization. These actions devastate the criminals who run Iran’s economy and who benefit most from the cash that their criminal enterprises generate. Prices are on the rise in the marketplace, and Iranians are feeling the pinch. But, perhaps for the first time, generals and ayatollahs who are enriching themselves at the expense of the average Iranian are also feeling the pain.
In short, our maximum pressure policy is paying dividends. That is precisely why the Iranian regime is so desperate to split the coalition aligned against it, weaken America’s resolve, and convince us to agree to yet another meaningless, fantasy deal that will do nothing to end Iranian aggression.
Charlie Brown had no choice but to keep trying to kick the football. Charles Schultz drew him that way. But we are not cartoon characters. We have free will and the capacity to learn from experience. Let’s exercise that free will and apply the lessons learned.
Our policy is working. Keep up the pressure.
Charles “Sam” Faddis is a retired CIA operations officer with decades of experience undercover abroad. He took the first CIA team into Iraq in advance of the 2003 invasion and retired in 2008 as head of the CIA counterterrorism unit tracking weapons of mass destruction. He is also a former U.S. Army officer and trial attorney. Faddis is currently a senior partner with Artemis, LLC and the senior editor for AND Magazine. He’s also the author of “Beyond Repair: The Decline and Fall of the CIA” and (with Mike Tucker) “Operation Hotel California: The Clandestine War Inside Iraq.”
This article was originally published @thehill.com on 09/15/19.