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.

Read more at Weekly Standard

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

Lessons for the U.S. from Israel’s 2007 Bombing of the Syrian Nuclear Reactor

March 23 2018

In 2007, then-Mossad chief Meir Dagan came to Washington with overwhelming evidence that Syria, with North Korean help, had built a nuclear reactor for military use. After a debate among his advisers, President Bush told then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that he had chosen to pressure Bashar al-Assad diplomatically to give up his nuclear program. Israel itself then bombed the reactor, which was located in an area that in a few years would become the heartland of Islamic State. Earlier this week, for the first time, Jerusalem publicly took responsibility for the attack. (Amnon Lord explores possible reasons for that decision here.) Elliott Abrams—then the deputy national security adviser for the Middle East—related the discussion within the White House over what to do about the reactor, and also explained what could be learned from the affair, in a 2013 article for Commentary:

The Israelis believed that if they [or American officials] spoke about the strike [after it happened], Assad might be forced to react to this humiliation by trying to attack Israel. If, however, we all shut up, he might do nothing—nothing at all. He might try to hide the fact that anything had happened. And with every day that passed, the possibility that he would acknowledge the event and fight back diminished. That had been the Israeli theory, and the Israelis knew their man. We maintained silence and so did Israel—no leaks. As the weeks went by, the chances of an Israeli-Syrian confrontation grew slim and then disappeared. Syria has never admitted that there was a reactor at the site. . . .

Two final points are worth noting. First, in May 2008, Turkish-mediated peace talks between Israel and Syria were publicly announced in Istanbul. The discussions had begun secretly in February 2007, and obviously had continued after the Israeli strike on [the reactor]. It would appear that the strike . . . made the Syrians more, not less, desirous of talking to the Israelis because it made them afraid of Israeli power. It also made them more afraid of American power until we undermined our own position, which is the second point.

A very well-placed Arab diplomat later told us that the strike had left Assad deeply worried as to what was coming next. He had turned Syria into the main transit route for jihadists going to Iraq to kill American soldiers. From Libya or Indonesia, Pakistan or Egypt, they would fly to Damascus International Airport and be shepherded into Iraq. Assad was afraid that on the heels of the Israeli strike would come American action to punish him for all this involvement. But just weeks later, Assad received his invitation to send a Syrian delegation to [a] big international confab [organized by] then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the Annapolis Conference, and according to the Arab envoy, Assad relaxed immediately; he knew he would be OK. . . .

Finally, this incident is a reminder that there is no substitute for military strength and the will to use it. Think of how much more dangerous to the entire region the Syrian civil war would be today if Assad had a nuclear reactor, and even perhaps nuclear weapons, in hand. Israel was right to bomb that reactor before construction was completed, and President Bush was right to support its decision to do so. Israel was also right in rejecting fears that the incident would lead to a larger war and in believing that it, and the United States, would be better off after this assertion of leadership and determination.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Bashar al-Assad, George W. Bush, Israel & Zionism, Nuclear proliferation, Syria, US-Israel relations