Iran Policy Choices
Are there reasonable grounds to believe that the time is ripe for the United States and its Middle Eastern allies to put together a new, but sound, positive, and effective Middle East regional security policy? And which would have as its core three objectives the US and its allies might adopt: (1) the elimination of the Iranian Revolutionary Islamic objectives (found in the Iranian constitution); (2) an end, not a pause, to Iran’s nuclear weapons program; and (3) limits on Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities.
In pursuit of such a policy, to get a change in Iranian behavior, here are some options we might consider, some of which have already been adopted or are in the process of being adopted.
First, Israel and the United States could jettison the fiction of both the “peace process” and a two-state solution. This could free the Arab neighbors of Israel to put together an alliance and coalition to defeat ISIS, the rebels in Yemen as well as checkmate Iran.
Second, instead of removing missile defenses in Eastern Europe, as was done in 2009, the new administration could deploy as planned the new missile defense systems in Poland and Romania, just as we also work with our Gulf allies to deploy better missile defense systems in the Middle East.
Third, fatally flawed legal maneuvers such as JASTA as a tool for bringing a resolution to the 9-11 attacks could be amended to prevent copycat lawsuits against American servicemen and women which are now starting to emerge, shutting off a possible route of Iranian inspired nuisance law suits against the United States.
Fourth, the Proliferation Security Initiative could be expanded to interdict the trafficking in missile and other defense technology between Iran and the DPRK and weapons from Iran to the Houthis rebels in Syria.
Fifth, an embargo on refined oil products being shipped to Iran could also be put on the table. When combined with US success in dramatically increase our own oil and natural gas production, such a tool of statecraft becomes more realistic.
Especially in light of the Wall Street Journal reported $170 billion in foreign investment in oil, gas and refinery projects now ready to take hold in the United States.
Sixth, a serious initiative to take down and freeze the financial assets of Iran, its ally North Korea and their terror group friends could go a long way to slow Iran’s march toward regional hegemony.
Seventh, the administration wants to have stronger border and visa enforcement. That would help thwart the kind of terrorist attacks Iran threatened against the Ambassadors from the KSA and Israel reported last year.
Eighth, the administration has a 30 day plan to destroy IS but have also examined how to do so without empowering Iran. Certainly eliminating these ISIS mass murderers would free up resources capable of dealing with Iran.
Ninth, already the administration has called for $54 billion in new defense spending as well as a related ballistic missile defense review. Both can result in added resources and technology being available to defeat Iranian aggression, particularly deploying advanced missile defenses to the Persian Gulf, northwest Asia and the US homeland. The new FY2017 budget adds $21 billion to defense and hundreds of millions more for missile defense, both steps in the right direction.
Using all these elements in a combined strategy, they could all be crafted as a joint means to help implement and make successful a new American Middle Eastern strategy. Such a strategy might have a greater chance of success than past policy in curtailing and ending Iranian aggression.
But whatever policy choices we make, an important strategic goal should be on the table for examination. We should not just be seeking no future nuclear armed Iran, (the ostensible objective of the JCPOA), but reviewing whether we should seek the end of the revolutionary jihadi regime in Tehran itself.
Is a more capable armed Iran in the long run, even without nuclear weapons — with better conventional weapons, more dangerous and capable ballistic missiles and an expanded terror network with which to attack us — be the price we pay to keep the JCPOA, even knowing it is only for the short run?
Unlike the past some 37 years of US security policy, a new national security strategy on Iran should at least decide whether to face the true nature of the regime. Imbedded in its constitution is its call for revolutionary political Islam. A goal which implies that whatever violent tools it can obtain, including nuclear weapons, the Islamic Republic will seek to secure.
History might guide us here. For example, it was not enough to reduce dramatically the Soviet era nuclear weapons, although that was achieved through the INF and Start treaties. The objective of ending the Soviet empire remained the focus of American security policy and here Reagan and Bush were successful.
If we do not ask that question of whether a nuclear-free Iran is consistent with the regime remaining in power in Tehran, we may end up only delaying not ending the possible emergence of Iran as a full-fledged, nuclear armed, revolutionary Islamic state, one dedicated to our destruction and armed with the most awful weapons every invented.