Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last week threatened to resume uranium enrichment unless the European signatories of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed trade with his country in violation of United States sanctions. This came one year to the day after President Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and the decades old Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Weapons.
Despite the United States leaving the deal last year, Rouhani has been practicing what he has called “strategic patience.” It is clear after his announcement last week that his patience has run out. Rouhani offered the European nations the two options of siding with the United States and its sanctions, or purchasing Iranian oil to protect the Iran nuclear deal.
The Europeans did not take this lightly. In a statement from the European Union high representative and the foreign ministers of Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, they said they “reject any ultimatums” and will assess the compliance of Iran on the basis of its performance regarding its commitments under the nuclear deal and the nonproliferation treaty.
However, the true threat of Iran to the United States is not related to nuclear weapons at all. The true threat is the steadfast support and growing influence that Iran has over embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Just three months ago, Admiral Craig Faller, head of United States Southern Command, testified in the Congress that Iran “exported its state support for terrorism into our hemisphere.”
A day earlier, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned that Hezbollah “has active cells” and the Iranians “are impacting the people of Venezuela and throughout South America.” It is clear that Iranian influence extends well into our hemisphere, and that this a true threat to the United States and democratic ideals. A decade ago, I warned of the dangerous relationship between former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in my 2009 book “The Threat Closer to Home.”