What should America’s policy be toward Iran? At the moment, the administration has withdrawn from the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action, known as the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal. It has also re-imposed strong sanctions against the Iranian regime.
The Iranian economy is in desperate shape, with widespread public anger against the ruler’s economic mismanagement and corruption, as well as foreign military adventures, which is leading to demonstrations, strikes and clashes with the security apparatus of the state.
Recent court decisions in the United States and England hold the Iranian leaders complicit in the terror strikes against the United States and the World Trade Center in 1993 and 2001. This makes designating the regime a terror sponsor a “slam dunk,” which obviously makes Iran a not-very-attractive place to do business.
Even more, and in a most surprising recent development, courts have ruled that the victims of these attacks can go after Iranian assets around the world to settle the upward of $58 billion in damages cumulatively awarded by the courts.
Many analysts thus believe the internal economic factors will move the Iranian leadership away from its support for terrorism. Particularly in Europe, Russia and China, governments believe that if America drops most of its sanctions against Iran and rejoins JCPOA, things will be “fixed.”
This narrative is wrong on a number of accounts.
First, Iran’s terrorist campaigns are embedded in the constitution irrespective of whether there is or is not a JCPOA or sanctions. The ruling mullahs believe they are required to use revolutionary Islamic violence to spread their totalitarian vision throughout the Middle East and the world.
As Secretary of Mattis explained a few weeks ago, the mullahs are committed to “terrorist mayhem” with the objective of creating a worldwide Islamic empire. There is no “alternative off-ramp” where the Iranians magically stop their “mayhem” unless of course the regime itself is replaced.
Second, despite Iran being constitutionally wedded to terrorism, Americans and more so Europeans still equate 9/11 and most terrorist activity with only Sunni-led violence from such groups as Al Qaeda. Most analysts are also apparently oblivious to the fact that Iran — the leader of Shia Muslims — and the Sunni Al Qaeda, as long ago as 1991, joined together in planning cooperative terror attacks against the United States.
So, Iran is not seen by many Americans or Europeans as the premier state sponsor of terrorism, although it is so designated by the United States Department of State. It is hard, then, to get our allies to support an aggressive campaign to bring down the regime in Iran as a result.
Third, many foreign policy experts are enamored with the narrative that violence generated in the Middle East is from legitimate grievances resulting from bad United States and Israel policies that, if addressed properly, would end most terrorism we see today. In this vision, regime change in Iran is totally unnecessary. What is needed, so the argument goes, is change in the American “regime” to accommodate the grievances of the terrorists.
The Trump administration, however, obviously doesn’t accept such a false narrative and is seeking a policy to both stop Iranian terrorism and work to change the regime’s behavior. Thus, the American withdrawal from the JCPOA and the re-imposition of sanctions against Iran.
The administration’s policy strategy may work as the geostrategic landscape has moved more favorably in Washington’s direction. A more aggressive American policy aimed at changing the Iranian regime from within, and thus eliminating the Iranian terror threat, as well as ending once and for all the regimes ambition to get nuclear weapons, may be in the cards.
What factors are new that lead to such a conclusion?
Well, first the massive public demonstrations are against not just the regimes economic incompetence but its massive theft and corruption. And for the first time, we are seeing strong opposition to the state-sponsored overseas terrorism that can no longer be hidden by the regime. Chants of “Death to Hezbollah” are intermingled with “Death to the Mullahs!”
As noted above, new wild cards are the second key factor. Courts not controlled by the Iranian regime, have determined Iran is responsible for multiple terror attacks against the United States, most importantly 9/11. And as a consequence, the courts have taken the next step to declare the Iranian regime’s assets can now be attached to pay for the multiple tens of billions of dollar damages owed the victims.
This has occurred in New York and Luxembourg and now Great Britain. Perhaps the prospect of Khomeini and his son having their largely ill-gotten stash of $100 billion attached by foreign courts will be a serious added economic danger that will make the regime susceptible to further real pressure that sends them hurtling over the proverbial cliff!
But without sustained international economic, political and military pressure, the mullahs are not going anywhere. Their constitution commands the country to expand its revolutionary violence worldwide and they are wedded to that objective.
Thus, the hope that with sanctions lifted once the JCPOA was signed the Iranians would “reform” was based on a lot of wishful thinking.
Just recently, the Iranian foreign minister revealed Iran’s real objectives, as they threatened America with “World War III,” continued advanced missile production, refused necessary inspections of their nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Administration (IAEA), expanded their military support for the government in Syria and the terrorists in Yemen, while also cracking down to imprison and kill their own demonstrating citizens.
Peter Huessy is the director for strategic deterrent studies at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.