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Harold Hutchison / Oct. 7, 2016

How to Address Iran

After Obama gave the store away, what now?

Nowhere has America’s strategic position seen more harm done by the Obama-Clinton foreign policy fumbles than the Middle East. While our attention has mostly been focused on the rise of the Islamic State, largely due to the craven and reckless timetable-based withdrawal of American forces from Iraq on the watch of Barack Obama and his then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the rise of Iran as a major threat in the Middle East has been somewhat obscured.

Aside from the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” in Vienna — a.k.a. the Iran nuclear deal, a document that will join the 1938 Munich Agreement in infamy — the Obama-Clinton approach has allowed Iran to get stronger, and has actively aided that regime at times. In any case, the administration has clearly underestimated the ingenuity of the mullahs.

Iran has, despite sanctions, managed to assemble a potent military. Much of this has come from carrying out its own indigenous designs, often knocking off weapons acquired from China or Russia. One such system is the Bavar 373, a clone of the early versions of the S-300 surface-to-air missile system, also known as the SA-10 Grumble. Iran’s ingenuity has gone far beyond missiles — it has even built indigenous frigate and missile boat designs, not to mention a pair of multi-role fighters in the Saeqeh and Azarakhsh.

In addition, North Korea has provided Iran with ballistic missile expertise and a mini-sub design that can make the Persian Gulf a much more hazardous location. Combining that buildup with Iran’s hostile actions toward American ships and planes in the region (not to mention taking U.S. sailors hostage for propaganda purposes), the dangerousness of the situation is hard to overstate. In a decade, give or take a couple of years either way, Iran could have the ability to wipe Israel off the map. That said, this situation can still be recovered. As with the late-‘80s Soviet Union, the regime running Iran is fragile. The problem is that this regime is just not as rational as the Soviets were.

The first step has to be rebuilding alliances with allies who have been left out in the cold by the last seven-plus years of gross mismanagement of our strategic position. Part of this will involve dealing decisively with the Islamic State. Once they get a sense of our nation’s renewed resolve, some will come around. But it will take a long time to rebuild the trust that Obama and Clinton squandered.

The next step is to make sure Iran understands that there is new management that won’t put up with the nonsense that has become almost the new normal. The next time Iranian speedboats make a close pass, warning shots we should respond with warning shots at least. That said, it might not hurt to replicate the 1981 Gulf of Sidra incident to drive the point home.

In addition, it’s also time to go after Iran’s missile and nuclear programs. If our allies will help, great; if not, then a “coalition of the willing” should be assembled to implement sanctions, carry out sabotage efforts against Iran’s military projects, and put pressure on countries that supply Iran with weapons. That last step might be the most important — if China wants to export weapons to Iran, maybe they can face the inability to get American technology. An alternative might be to sabotage the weapons Iran is buying from foreign suppliers. In other words, try to reduce Iran’s ability to improve its military technology as long as possible.

In conjunction with hampering Iran’s military build-up, the U.S. must rebuild its own forces. The 25-year mismanagement of America’s carrier force will be hard to overcome in the short term. Other services have their problems, too. But a major military buildup will pressure Iran (and other malefactors around the globe). The goal has to be more boots on the ground, more hulls in the water, and more airframes on the flight line.

Finally, we need to face the possibility that a war may be coming with Iran. Had the crippling sanctions of recent years been maintained, this possibility would likely have been reduced. But the Obama-Clinton appeasement has brought us closer to armed conflict. The question that the American people will have to answer this November is whether that fighting will be done on our timing and terms, or on the timing and terms of the mullahs.

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