As Iran Grows Increasingly Desperate, the U.S. and Israel Should Continue to Make It Pay a Price for Troublemaking

September 16, 2019 | Michael Pregent
About the author: Michael Pregent, a retired intelligence officer, is a visiting fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies in Washington, DC. He tweets @MPPregent.

Over the weekend, the Iran-backed Yemenite Houthi rebels used drones to attack two major Saudi oil-processing sites. These attacks are part of a much larger pattern of provocative Iranian behavior—including further violations of the 2015 nuclear agreement—likely in response to increased American sanctions. But, argues Michael Pregent, Tehran is acting out of desperation, and Washington must make it continue to pay a price for its behavior:

Nothing is working. The Islamic Republic’s Lebanese proxy, Hizballah, is not ready for a repeat of its 2006 war [with Israel]. Iranian rockets, missiles, and drones, which are stored in depots in Iraq and Syria, are [meanwhile] being hit by Israeli airstrikes. Iran thought Russia’s S-300 and S-400 air defense systems were going to protect its offensive capabilities in Syria and that the U.S. would keep Israel from conducting airstrikes in Iraq—it was wrong in both cases.

[For their part], Iraqis are not rallying to the flag. They are not protesting these strikes, and that says a lot about the general population’s distaste for Iranian influence and Tehran’s militias in Iraq.

The status quo of the last 40 years was to reward Iran for its provocations, with the Islamic Republic redeploying the same tactics over and over again because it was rewarded over and over again. This time it is different.

The U.S. should do all it can to help its allies absorb Iran’s attacks and make them unsuccessful. [It should also] persuade France not to pay [the Islamic Republic what amounts to a] $15-billion bribe, and hold Baghdad accountable for not acting to curb malign Iranian activity. It must also punish Iran for providing lethal aid to the Taliban while the latter kills Americans and negotiates with Washington in bad faith.

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