Foreign Policy

What's Next for Trump's Iran Strategy?

"Trumping" Iran's appeasers was worthwhile. Planning for the future is now on the docket.

Arnold Ahlert · May 14, 2018

“Today is a reminder that if you live by the Presidency, you die by the Presidency.” —Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) addressing Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a.k.a. the Iran nuclear deal

For eight years, America endured a “pen and phone” president so thoroughly convinced of his own moral superiority that he viewed Congress as more of an impediment than a co-equal branch of government. And the same media that gushed over his “courage” — even now, The Washington Post is referring to the former president’s disastrous appeasement of Iran as one of his “signature foreign policy achievements” — is aghast that what can be done by executive fiat can be undone the same way.

How bad was the Iran deal? There was no deal. “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document,” stated a letter sent in 2015 from the State Department to then-Rep. Mike Pompeo. Thus the notion that Barack Obama’s executive order was binding is absurd.

It was implemented because Obama knew he couldn’t get the constitutionally required two-thirds vote of approval from the Senate for a treaty. Thus, he called it an understanding, and with ample help from Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), he turned that treaty provision on its head, making it necessary for two-thirds of the Senate to kill the deal.

Given political cover, Congress allowed the agreement to go forward, and Obama gushed about having Iran “fully rejoin the community of nations.” The regime was then rewarded with more than $100 billion in sanctions relief and $1.7 billion in cash, delivered on pallets by unmarked planes in the middle of the night — a portion of which even former Secretary of State John Kerry admitted would be used to support terrorism.

A portion? After agreement’s implementation, Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani, traveled to Moscow and got Vladimir Putin to provide air support for pro-Assad, Iranian-backed militias fighting in Syria. Teheran began ballistic missile testing. It engendered civil war in Yemen and Lebanon. It quadrupled its financial support of terror proxy Hezbollah, and established a supply route in Iraq for arming its fighters in Syria.

How desperate was Obama to make any kind of deal? The administration used the NSA to spy on Israel, “coincidentally” capturing conversations between anti-deal U.S. officials, Jewish American leaders and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. National security advisor Ben Rhodes created a media echo chamber of know-nothing journalists duped into disseminating administration lies about the Iranian regime’s nature. And as columnist Eli Lake reminds us, just days before the deal was implemented, “Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps boarded a U.S. Navy vessel and briefly detained U.S. sailors who had accidentally drifted into Iranian waters. In case the point was missed, the sailors were videotaped on their knees with their hands clasped behind their heads.”

The point was missed. Kerry called the subsequent release of the sailors “a testament to the critical role that diplomacy plays in keeping our country safe, secure and strong.”

Trump has ended this nonsense. More important, he is free to pursue that which a feckless Obama refused to “meddle with” in 2009, even as Iranian dissidents were being beaten and killed: regime change.

Toward that end, Trump has circulated a three-page white paper among National Security Council officials that “seeks to reshape longstanding American foreign policy toward Iran by emphasizing an explicit policy of regime change,” The Washington Free Beacon reports.

And contrary to leftist assertions that Trump is putting America on the brink of war, the document “deemphasizes U.S. military intervention, instead focusing on a series of moves to embolden an Iranian population that has increasingly grown angry at the ruling regime for its heavy investments in military adventurism across the region.”

The mullahs are sitting on a populist powder keg. In addition to unpopular adventurism, Iran is facing an acute water shortage precipitated by bad water management policies and aging infrastructure. The regime’s promise to spread the nuclear deal’s wealth to its people has been broken, leaving the nation with an 11% unemployment rate, while the Revolutionary Guard who runs Iran’s ballistic missile program and answers solely to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei controls between 15% and 30% of the economy. The government has also banned Telegram, an encrypted personal messaging app used by half the country that Iran’s ICT minister, Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, insisted was “encouraging hateful conduct, use of Molotov cocktails, armed uprisings, and social unrest.”

Lake envisions a three-prong strategy for regime change. First, Iranians need to take charge of their own revolution, which requires Trump to refrain from picking leaders, arming particular factions or precipitating an invasion. Second, credible channels of communication that abet domestic resistance, but refrain from empowering outside groups seeking to impose their own agenda on such a movement, must be established. Third, Trump must expand his list of demands beyond nuclear parameters. Lake suggests tying the removal of sanctions to the removal of the office of Supreme Leader from the nation’s constitution.

All good, but columnist David French adds an essential ingredient to the mix, insisting “we must beat Iran on the battlefield, not by invading or declaring war but instead by ensuring the endurance and ultimate victory of our allies in the proxy conflicts raging across the Middle East.”

He reminds us why. “Arguably no nation in recent history has taken more deadly action against the United States without a corresponding American response,” he asserts. “No wonder the regime believed it could dictate terms to the Obama administration.”

They can’t dictate terms to Trump. “If the regime continues its nuclear aspirations, it will have bigger problems than it has ever had before,” the president asserted during his withdrawal announcement.

In response, Iranian parliamentary members burned a paper American flag and chanted “death to America,” while Khamenei tweeted that Trump’s “corpse will also be worm food while IRI stands strong.”

Anyone who believes such contempt for America and its leaders hasn’t been the Iranian government’s position for decades is as delusional as an Obama administration and the cabal of equally spineless European leaders who also believe evil should be appeased — especially if it accrues to the EU’s globalist profit-making schemes.

And that goes double for mostly Democrat congressional hypocrites who opposed Obama’s deal, but now oppose Trump for rescinding it. They are joined by their fellow progressive elitists “for whom there is only one right way to conduct a presidency, and that is the Harvard-Democratic-groupthink way,” columnist Michael Walsh explains.

Leftist arrogance is nothing new. Neville Chamberlain’s Munich Agreement of 1938 and Bill Clinton’s Agreed Framework of 1994 were both sold as grand achievements in diplomacy. Both were catastrophic failures, yet both were ignored by an equally clueless Obama administration, led by an “arc of history” narcissist who was ultimately forced to admit the JCPOA only delayed Iran’s ability to acquire nuclear weapons.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of Israel’s creation and the first day Jerusalem will be the official home of the U.S. Embassy. North Korea has announced it will dismantle its nuclear test site prior to negotiations ostensibly aimed at denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

Perhaps Harvard-Democratic-groupthink isn’t all it’s purported to be.

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