Having played his aces too early on Iran’s nuclear program, President Donald Trump now has only a weak hand against a new threat from the Islamic Republic. The Pentagon is warning that the regime will buy advanced conventional weapons – like tanks and jet fighters – toward the end of next year, when a United Nations embargo ends.
Pompeo is right: Iran has used its existing military strength and capabilities to prop up the dictator Bashar Assad in Syria, and to equip Hezbollah in Lebanon as well as proxy militias in Iraq and Yemen. It will likely use new arms to strengthen these groups and menace other states in the region.
But Pompeo can expect no sympathy in the Security Council – and not just because at least two other veto-wielding permanent members, China and Russia, are potential arms suppliers to Iran. By pulling the U.S. out of the nuclear deal against the pleas of the other signatories, the Trump administration may not even be able to count on the support of France and Britain.
The U.S.’s most powerful non-kinetic weapon – economic sanctions – should scare off most arms manufacturers. The real test will come when Russian and Chinese suppliers have to weigh their options between U.S. sanctions and Iranian orders worth billions of dollars. [more]