Stop Iran—the Next North Korea—before It’s Too Late

Aug. 14 2017

Some prominent opponents of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—as the nuclear agreement with the Islamic Republic is formally called—have argued that the U.S. should keep the deal, enforce it rigorously, and at the same time work to push back against Iranian troublemaking throughout the Middle East. Robert Joseph dissents:

[Such an] approach could easily become a quagmire, as questions of compliance with arms-control agreements such as the JCPOA are inherently legalistic, lengthy, and political. Inevitably, it would lead to an entangling debate over whether Iran’s violations are “minor” or rise to the level of material breach. Whatever the outcome, the time lost would be profoundly detrimental to U.S. security interests. If President Trump does not act decisively to end participation in the JCPOA, the near-future is clear: Iran will be the next North Korea, a dangerous adversary on the brink of acquiring a nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile.

In place of the JCPOA, the United States must develop and implement a comprehensive strategy of containment and regime change from within. . . . [This] is not a call to replace diplomacy with war, as alarmists will argue. Rather, as it was with the Soviet Union for decades in the cold war, [this strategy] is perhaps the only means to deal effectively with the threat the Islamic Republic poses.

The misplaced hope has long been that the regime will become more moderate or that we will identify a moderate faction within the regime and encourage it to move the country in a positive direction. . . . [But it] is a regime that will not change and cannot change because change would lead to its downfall.

The key is to support change from within—something that was ruled out by the Obama administration. The United States cannot impose change from the outside but it can assist internal change and those popular forces that can bring it about. U.S. policy should give hope and sustenance to the opposition forces in Iran that support democracy, human rights, and a secular government focused not on repression, missiles, and nuclear weapons but on the needs and aspirations of its people.

Despite the propaganda from Tehran’s apologists, this is a weak regime with little popular support. Like other repressive regimes, it is brittle and will—one day—crumble to the will of its citizens. President Trump must work to accelerate its fall.

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More about: Iran, Iran nuclear program, North Korea, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

When It Comes to Syria, Vladimir Putin’s Word Can’t Be Trusted

July 13 2018

In the upcoming summit between the Russian and American presidents in Helsinki, the future of Syria is likely to rank high on the agenda. Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has already made clear that Moscow won’t demand a complete Iranian withdrawal from the country. Donald Trump, by contrast, has expressed his desire for a complete U.S. withdrawal. Examining Moscow’s track record when it comes to maintaining its past commitments regarding Syria, Eli Lake urges caution:

Secretary of State John Kerry spent his last year in office following Lavrov all over the world in an attempt to create a U.S.-Russian framework for resolving the Syrian civil war. He failed. . . . President Trump [now] wants to get to know Putin better—and gauge his willingness to help isolate Iran. This is a pointless and dangerous gambit. First, by announcing his intention to pull U.S. forces out of the country “very soon,” Trump has already given away much of his leverage within Syria.

Ideally, Trump would want to establish a phased plan with Putin, where the U.S. would make some withdrawals following Iranian withdrawals from Syria. But Trump has already made it clear that prior [stated] U.S. objectives for Syria, such as the removal of the dictator Bashar al-Assad, are no longer U.S. objectives. The U.S. has also declined to make commitments to give money for Syrian reconstruction.

Without any leverage, Trump will have to rely even more on Putin’s word, which is worthless. Putin to this day denies any Russian government role in interfering in the 2016 U.S. election. Just last month, Putin went on Austrian television and lied about his government’s role in shooting down a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine. Why would anyone trust Putin to keep his word to help remove Iran and its proxies from Syria?

And this gets to the most dangerous possible outcome of the upcoming summit. The one thing that Kerry never did was to attempt to trade concessions on Syria for concessions on Crimea, the Ukrainian territory that Russia invaded and annexed in 2014. There was a good reason for this: even if one argues that the future of Ukraine is not a high priority for the U.S., it’s a disastrous precedent to allow one nation to change the boundaries of another through force, and particularly of one that signed an agreement with the U.S., UK, and Russia to preserve its territorial integrity in exchange for relinquishing its cold-war-era nuclear weapons.

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More about: Crimea, Donald Trump, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy, Vladimir Putin