Increased U.S. Sanctions Will Present Iran’s Leaders with a Choice between Capitulation and Suicide

April 24 2019

On May 2, the White House will cease granting sanction waivers to eight countries that have until now been allowed to purchase oil from the Islamic Republic without penalty. This measure, combined with the series of economic steps taken by the Trump administration, could severely erode Tehran’s ability to export terror and bloodshed, writes Mohammed Alyahya:

[One] point often ignored is the value sanctions have in eroding the regime’s resources. . . . Iran’s extensive regional proxy network—comprising several dozen militias in Iraq and Syria, two in Bahrain, one in Yemen, and its flagship proxy in Lebanon, Hizballah—relies on Iranian funding to sustain operations and buy loyalty. The regime cannot fund these groups with its own currency. It needs U.S. dollars, and because of sanctions, it does not have enough. . . .

This leaves the Iranian regime with two choices. The first: to capitulate to the Trump administration’s list of twelve demands, many of which would strip the revolutionary regime of its raison d’être, and channel the regime’s resources exclusively toward the betterment of the people of Iran. The second: to provoke conventional war in the Gulf or with Israel, an option that would put the Iranian regime at an extreme disadvantage.

With poor conventional military capabilities, Iran does not stand a chance in an all-out conventional war with its well-equipped Arab neighbors, let alone with the U.S. . . . Iran could attack Israel rather than its Gulf opponents in an effort to reshuffle the regional cards. . . . Although Israel [in that eventuality] would likely incur a level of damage and loss of life it has not witnessed since 1948, Iran’s most dependable ally, Hizballah, will surely take a significant mauling in such a war. While it may not be fully destroyed, it is unlikely that Hizballah would be able to rebuild as quickly and at the same scale as after the 2006 war to once again pose a threat to Israel, which would undermine Iranian deterrence.

The regime will [thus] soon find itself in a position where it must choose between firing its weapons and laying them down. If the Iranian regime chooses not to make concessions, it will be forced to martyr itself.

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Read more at Al Arabiya

More about: Iran, Iran sanctions, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy

 

A Better Syria Strategy Can Help Achieve the U.S. Goal of Countering Iran

While the Trump administration has reversed much of its predecessor’s effort to realign Washington with Tehran, and has effectively used sanctions to exert economic pressure on the Islamic Republic, Omar Hassino argues that these measures might not be enough:

Iran and its militias control more territory and natural resources in Syria and Iraq than before President Trump took office. . . . The U.S. should back the low-cost insurgency approach that has already shown potential in southwest Syria to bleed the Iranian forces and increase the costs of their expansion and [of Tehran’s] support for the Assad regime. It makes no sense that Iran can fund low-cost insurgencies to bleed American allies in the region, but the United States cannot counter with the same. The administration should also consider expanding support to the proxy forces that it currently works with—such as the Revolution Commandos near the [U.S.] al-Tanf garrison in southwest Syria—for the purpose of fighting and eliminating Iranian-backed militias. This limited escalation can curb Iranian expansion and put pressure on the Assad regime in the long term.

Furthermore, in this vein, the U.S. should empower peaceful Syrian civil-society groups and local councils operating outside Assad-regime control. Last year, the Trump administration eliminated assistance for stabilization in Syria, including funding going to secular anti-Assad civil-society groups that were also combating al-Qaeda’s ideology, as well as the Syrian [medical and civil-defense group known as] the White Helmets, before quickly [restoring] some of this funding. Yet the funding has still not completely been resumed, and if this administration takes an approach similar to its predecessor’s in relying on regional powers such as Turkey, these powers will instead fund groups aligned ideologically with Muslim Brotherhood. This is already happening in Idlib.

The United States must [also] jettison the Obama-era [strategy of establishing] “de-escalation zones.” These zones were from the start largely a Russian ruse to help the Assad regime conquer opposition areas, and they succeeded. Now that the regime controls most of Syria and Iranian proxies are dominant within the regime side, support for de-escalation is tantamount to support for Iranian expansion. The United States must [instead] prevent further expansion by the Assad regime and Iran in parts of the country that they still do not control.

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More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy