To gain leverage against Iran by the summer of 2015, action must to be taken in addition to the prevailing sanctions. Currently, countries negotiating with Iran regarding its nuclear program seem flummoxed. In addition, none are willing to use force as a means of persuasion. Movement capable of reducing Iran’s ability to bargain must be explored.
It is possible that the Iranians will be allowed to keep 4,500 active centrifuges, up from originally 500. Suspected of having 19,000 centrifuges, 9,000 of which are active, Iran has more than enough to create a nuclear device. With its present technology, the Iran is capable of producing nuclear explosives in three to six months, and manufacturing a full-fledged bomb in a year and a half. If current Iranian nuclear technology is updated, or if covert development continues, nukes may be produced in a time frame much shorter than eighteen months.
Sanctions have had a dire effect on the Iranian economy, causing leadership to soften their tone with regard to the international community. However, in recent negotiations, the Iran appears to have gained the upper hand. Perhaps action should be directed toward marginalizing Iran’s most divisive militant organization, the IRGC, or Iranian Revolutionary Guard. In short, a global sting operation directed toward illicit activities conducted by the IRGC may be what is necessary to deter the confidence of Iranian negotiators in 2015.
When people think of current terrorist agencies sponsored by Iran, it is likely that Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen, or Iran’s strategic military partnership in Sudan come to mind. These, however, pale in comparison with Iran’s own Revolutionary Guard (IRGC). The IRGC yields over $12 Billion per year, and is connected with over one hundred companies involved in petrochemicals, fuels, and construction.
Due to emphasis on asymmetrical warfare, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and elite Quds Forces differ from Western military in that their operations outside of Iran are permitted to function independently from a central command. As a result, IRGC will often connect with terrorist agencies, drug cartels, and armed forces of allied countries. The IRGC even links with religious and civic organizations in other countries to pursue fundraising and recruitment initiatives.
Iran is alive and well in the Americas. Its presence in Venezuela is alarming. The IRGC has served with the Venezuelan Army, while the Quds Forces have helped supervise transport of drugs from illicit Venezuelan crime syndicates. Conceivably, the most well-known partnership of the global IRGC is with Hezbollah, Iran’s most recognizable terrorist sponsor. The presence of Hezbollah and Quds forces in neighboring Mexico present the United States with a major threat at its southern border.
Since 2005, Iran and Hezbollah have developed a presence in Latin America, opening 17 cultural centers, and forming relations with the Mexican drug cartels. 200,000 immigrants from Lebanon and Syria, many of whom are illegal residents, live in Mexico, and have established residence with the help of drug cartels like Los Zetas, the most technically advanced of Mexico’s illegal crime organizations.
Doubtless, the most overt terrorist plot against American security took place in 2011 when Quds forces were accused of planning to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. The Quds force was also suspected of collaborating with Los Zetas in a plot to bomb the Saudi Arabian and Israeli Embassies in Argentina, and the Israeli Embassy in Washington D.C.
Any approach to breaking Iran’s will in the next round of negotiations comes with great risk. However, if U.S. negotiators capitulate in 2015, Iran may become a nuclear power. This is detrimental to the interests of the U.S. and its allies. It is quite possible that a regional nuclear arms race, or war for dominance in the Middle East will follow. Stopping illegal activity on the part of the IRGC may provide a way for John Kerry to mandate terms of negotiation with Iran this summer.