U.S. Iran Policy Must Look Beyond Nuclear Weapons

Since negotiations between Washington and Tehran became public in 2013, most discussion of American policy toward the Islamic Republic revolved around the latter’s quest to acquire nuclear weapons. Now that the U.S. has rejected the 2015 nuclear deal, writes Michael Singh, it is high time that policymakers concern themselves with issues outside of arms control, most importantly Iran’s growing power, and malign influence, throughout the Middle East:

[E]ffectively countering Iran will require that the United States reach more deeply into its policy tool kit, beyond economic sanctions alone. These should be buttressed both by the low-level use of military force—for example, retaining a small American presence in Syria, empowering local allies, and using the threat of U.S. airpower to prevent entrenchment in Syria by Iran and its proxies—and by continued U.S.-Iranian engagement. The former is often regarded as escalatory and the latter as appeasement or legitimation of the Iranian regime, but in reality both are essential elements of a strategy of deterrence. Diplomacy is necessary to convey redlines, to explain the U.S. agenda in the region, and to understand Iran’s intentions; a willingness to use limited force is necessary to lend credibility to that engagement.

In addition, the United States should not only impose costs on Iran for threatening U.S. interests but erect obstacles to Iran’s doing so in the first place. This calls for ensuring that there are no further easy opportunities for Iranian intervention around the region, by promoting the resilience of regional states in the face of the sort of political and economic meddling that features heavily in the Iranian playbook. Success would also be aided by the development of more functional regional security organizations—one need only look at the current rift within the region’s most coherent multilateral group, the Gulf Cooperation Council, to understand that Iran hardly faces a united regional opposition. . . .

Success will require not just a plan for reinstating sanctions in hopes of one day bringing Iran back to the negotiating table but a strategy that tackles with urgency the broad and growing set of challenges in the Middle East in which Iran plays a role.

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More about: Gulf Cooperation Council, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy

 

To Israel’s Leading Strategist, Strength, Not Concessions, Has Brought a Measure of Calm

Aug. 14 2018

Following a long and distinguished career in the IDF, Yaakov Amidror served as Israel’s national-security adviser from 2011 to 2013. He speaks with Armin Rosen about the threats from Gaza, Hizballah, and Iran:

For Israel’s entire existence, would-be peacemakers have argued that the key to regional harmony is the reduction of the Jewish state’s hard power through territorial withdrawals and/or the legitimization of the country’s non-state enemies. In Amidror’s view, reality has thoroughly debunked this line of reasoning.

Amidror believes peace—or calm, at least—came as a result of Israeli muscle. Israel proved to its former enemies in the Sunni Arab world that it’s powerful enough to fill the vacuum left by America’s exit from the region and to stand up to Iran on the rest of the Middle East’s behalf. “The stronger Israel is, the more the ability of Arab countries to cooperate [with it] grows,” Amidror explained. On the whole, Amidror said he’s “very optimistic. I remember the threat that we faced when we were young. We fought the Six-Day War and I remember the Yom Kippur War, and I see what we are facing today. We have only one-and-a-half problems. One problem is Iran, and the half-problem is Hizballah.” . . .

In all likelihood the next Israeli-Iranian confrontation will be a clash with Amidror’s half-threat: the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hizballah, Iran’s most effective proxy in the Middle East and perhaps the best armed non-state military force on earth. . . . “We should neutralize the military capability of Hizballah,” [in the event of war], he said. “We should not destroy the organization as a political tool. If the Shiites want these people to represent them, it’s their problem.” . . .

“It will be a very nasty war,” Amidror said. “A very, very nasty war.” Hizballah will fire “thousands and thousands” of long-range missiles of improved precision, speed, and range at Israeli population centers, a bombardment larger than Israel’s various layers of missile defense will be able to neutralize in full. . . . This will, [however], be a blow Israel can withstand. “Israelis will be killed, no question,” Amidror said. “But it’s not going to be catastrophic.”

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Lebanon