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Start Deterring Iran Now

Feb. 14 2018

The Iranian drone that entered Israeli airspace over the weekend was reportedly designed in imitation of an American unmanned aircraft captured by Iran in 2011; at the time, the U.S neglected to destroy it, which could have prevented its reverse engineering. To Richard Goldberg, such failures to deter Tehran—this was only one of many during Barack Obama’s presidency—have helped create the current situation where Iran’s forces are stationed across the Middle East and in a position, for instance, to menace Israel. He urges Washington to reverse course:

Now is the time for President Trump to re-establish robust military deterrence toward Iranian expansionism in close collaboration with regional allies. His administration declared [Iran’s] Revolutionary Guard a terrorist entity in October, and he should target key Guard bases and weapons in Syria accordingly. Such an approach could help prevent a larger-scale conflict.

Iran’s leaders tend to avoid direct military confrontation against a superior military power. . . . Furthermore, the mullahs know that if they direct more money into extraterritorial operations, their economic and political situation at home will deteriorate. The Iranian people are already chanting, “Let go of Syria, think about us.” Raising the cost for Iran in Syria would exacerbate internal tensions.

Trump will certainly need to prepare for a range of potential responses from Iran, particularly via proxies in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. But these proxy threats aren’t new—and the benefits far outweigh potential costs. First, Tehran’s strategic calculus would start to change, curtailing risk-taking in the region, enhancing security for U.S. allies over the long run and potentially changing regime behavior in other illicit activities. Second, a U.S. military deterrent would close the so-called “land bridge” that gives Iran an uninterrupted line of influence to the Mediterranean. And that deterrent would undergird Trump’s threats to exit the nuclear deal, which could dramatically increase the likelihood that attempts to fix the deal succeed while significantly reducing the risks of an Iranian escalation should he decide to nix it.

Finally, the United States would reclaim diplomatic leverage over Russia in Syria. If Vladimir Putin wants to maintain a long-term presence and to profit off the country’s reconstruction, he’ll have to clear Iranian forces out of Syria or America and its allies will do it for him.

Read more at New York Post

More about: Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Iran, Israeli Security, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war

 

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen