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If Trump wants to contain Iran, then he should start containing Iran

Reuel Marc Gerecht
24th October 2017 - Quoted by Jennifer Rubin - The Washington Post

One of the stated reasons for President Trump’s decision to decertify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was to signal a new, more intensive effort to address Iran’s non-nuclear behavior. The argument is deeply flawed for two important reasons.

First, while the Obama administration could rightly be faulted (and we did fault it) for being insufficiently aggressive in challenging Iran on human rights, regional aggression and human rights abuses, these deficiencies were a function of excessive concern over losing the JCPOA. The JCPOA did not address any of these issues. A new president did not need to be so tentative in confronting Iran. Indeed, a president of either party was likely to engage Iran more robustly on areas outside the JCPOA. (Hillary Clinton during the campaign talked repeatedly about applying non-nuclear sanctions and working with regional partners to check Iran’s hegemonic ambitions.)

Second, and more important, even with Trump’s new decertification strategy, we don’t see any coherent, deliberate strategy to take on Iran’s non-nuclear conduct. Indeed, the lack of an effective strategy for checking Iran in both Iraq and Syria alarms even those who support scrapping the JCPOA. Reuel Marc Gerecht writes:

The administration’s announcement of its new Iran grand strategy appears to be, at least in Syria, just a continuation of the status quo, which is a slightly more muscular version of [President Barack] Obama’s approach to fighting the Islamic State. In Iraq, the White House and the Pentagon may even be planning to draw down troops, which would inevitably lead to a weakening of the Iranian-averse Shia, the sole hope we have of convulsing the Persians in Mesopotamia. In Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Yemen, the Trump administration’s outreach to traditional Sunni allies could easily end up encouraging the Sunni side to thump harder the native Shia, which will inevitably further radicalize these communities. The potential for Iranian subversion will go up, not down.

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