Donate

Lessons from the End of the Iran Deal

Dismissing those who see President Trump’s decision to abrogate the nuclear agreement with Iran as an invitation to catastrophe, Ray Takeyh argues that the deal “contained the seeds of its own destruction” and urges policymakers to learn from its failure:

In contravention of decades of bipartisan arms-control policy, the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] conceded an indigenous enrichment capacity to an adversarial nation; Iran was allowed to continue enriching uranium while modernizing its atomic infrastructure. This original sin was the most consequential one. . . .

Another of the Iran deal’s fatal flaws was the notion that it’s possible to segregate arms control from all other areas of concern with Iran. . . . The events since the Iran deal’s conclusion in 2015 demonstrate the folly of this approach. There is always an implicit connection between an adversary’s regional behavior and the durability of a nuclear accord. . . . In the end, the Islamic Republic could not implant its flag across the Middle East and aggravate Arab civil wars and sustain the JCPOA. Thus, in any future talks, the U.S. can’t allow Iran’s regional behavior to be excluded from consideration.

Yet another lesson here for future diplomats is that any restrictions negotiated on Iran’s nuclear program must be permanent ones—no more sunset clauses. This is hardly a provocative posture, as it was the Obama administration’s own stance prior to 2013. . . . Given the contentious history of U.S.-Iran relations, any future accord [also] has to be submitted to the Senate as a treaty. John Kerry [believed] that so long as the United Nations and the Europeans affirmed his agreement, it would be protected from its American detractors. He was dead wrong; Congress rejected the JCPOA and every Republican presidential candidate denounced it. . . . This was hardly the necessary foundation for sustaining an agreement that was bound to be controversial. . . .

All this is a high bar for an agreement. And it may come to pass that arms control should not define America’s priorities as it once more contemplates the post-JCPOA environment. The Islamic Republic is a crippled revolutionary state on an inexorable path to extinction. It is ideologically exhausted, financially depleted, and suffering from imperial overstretch. As Washington turns a page from the JCPOA, it may consider ways of empowering Iranians to reclaim their country and make all the arms-control discussions superfluous. That is now the Trump administration’s charge, and its most important challenge.

Read more at Politico

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

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