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Forging a new approach to Iran

By Shahram Ahmadi Nasab Emran

As Tehran tests the water, America must stand for regional stability

Even as the Trump administration seeks to designate the Revolutionary Guard as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, Iran continues its blatant defiance of international norms. Promising “roaring missiles” if threatened, Tehran has test fired several ballistic weapons capable of delivering nuclear material in just the past month. A fundamentally weak regime with dated military capabilities, Iran is attempting to call the United States’ bluff, perhaps to gain leverage in any subsequent re-evaluations of the nuclear deal Tehran struck with the Obama administration. Several blistering statements from the White House backed by a round of sanctions presage the administration’s muscular new approach. But if it hopes to secure the region, it must systematically target the core destabilizing activities of the regime.

In a steady stream of denunciations, the White House pledged tougher U.S. action if the mullahs continue to violate international norms through illicit missile tests, making clear that the Obama era of appeasement is over. “Instead of being thankful to the United States for these agreements, Iran is now feeling emboldened,” an official White House statement read. “We are officially putting Iran on notice.” While many Iranian officials dismissed President Trump’s tough talk on the nuclear deal as empty campaign rhetoric, the president’s appointment of fellow anti-regime hardliner Gen. James Mattis demonstrates his intention to deliver.

Perhaps more importantly, the White House has also challenged the regime’s extended proxy offensives against U.S. allies and friends in the neighborhood. Such actions “underscore what should have been clear to the international community all along about Iran’s destabilizing behavior across the Middle East,” the White House statement continued. Contrary to President Obama’s Middle East policy of abandoning friends and allies and trying to make friends with the adversaries, the Trump administration will fully support its friends. Specifically, this stance challenges Iran’s practice of hiding behind Hezbollah and Houthis militants as it funds and trains them.

Holding a vastly dated arsenal of weapons, Iran is no match for U.S. firepower, leaving only backchannel mercenaries to promote regional dominance. The White House acknowledged this dynamic, specifically characterizing the affront against Saudi forces as being “conducted by Iran-supported Houthi militants.” This link was never recognized by the Obama administration. Such oversight left Iran free to grow and strengthen its hand in these groups, which terrorize the region and undermine our partners. If the Trump administration will craft a strategy for stunting Iran’s proxy network, particularly by cutting funding and armament flows, the region would be far safer and more stable. Noting Mr. Trump’s concerns about the nuclear deal being “weak and ineffective”, the Trump administration addressed a third key issue in the U.S.-Iranian relationship. Rapidly losing money and influence, the nuclear deal allowed the regime to avoid military confrontation over its development program for which it was grossly unprepared. And despite the intention of weakening the regime and strengthening the Iranian people, rushed U.S. concessions granted the regime an eleventh-hour trickle of lifeblood, both financially and symbolically. By rolling sanctions back, destabilizing behavior was ostensibly met with an influx of funds. As such, the deal signaled that military action against Iran was highly improbable, thus essentially green lighting the illicit activity that effected warnings and sanctions from the White House over the past month. And despite official remarks by Iranian officials denouncing these statements as naive and weak, the regime would be in dire straits if America turns off the faucet opened by the nuclear deal.

Finally, the administration’s condemnation for Iran’s broader support for terrorism demonstrated clear perspective on the direct threat it poses to international security. In addition to supporting Hezbollah, Iran is currently involved in a life-and-death battle in Syria that includes continuous weapon and militant transfer from Iran to Syria. President Bashar Assad’s downfall in Syria would destroy the linchpin of Iran’s terror apparatus. Further, any sustainable resolution calls for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Syria, culling both activity in the country and a pipeline to Hezbollah via the porous borders between Syria and Libya. As Iran finds itself backed into a corner by its regional export of terror, Mr. Trump and his team have many cards to play.

By identifying the gross overreach by the Iranian regime and promising a swift, punitive response, the White House’s stance marked the end of a longstanding American policy of naive appeasement. In so doing, the Trump administration has rightly recognized the true source of instability and existential threat the region faces. Now, instead of issuing broad statements, it must act on a smart strategy for dismantling the key pillars of Iran’s international terror network and stunting the regime’s emboldened overreach.

‘Courtesy The Washington Times’.



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