National Security

Iran Pressured Onto a Precipice

Trump issues new sanctions against the regime after recent attacks bring trouble.

Jordan Candler · Jun. 25, 2019

Iran was (narrowly) spared an airstrike last week in the aftermath of its recent oil-tanker and drone attacks, but retaliation is still happening in the form of beefed-up sanctions. According to the White House website, “President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order [Monday] morning that imposes tough sanctions to deprive the Supreme Leader of Iran and some of his closest associates of key financial resources.”

In the president’s words: “[Yesterday’s] action follows a series of aggressive behaviors by the Iranian regime in recent weeks. The Supreme Leader of Iran is [the] one who ultimately is responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime. … His office oversees the regime’s most brutal instruments, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi bellowed in rebuttal, “Imposing useless sanctions … is the permanent closure of the path of diplomacy.” He added, “Trump’s desperate administration is destroying the established international mechanisms for maintaining world peace and security.”

Some hardcore interventionists disagree, but the leveling of additional sanctions is a balanced countermeasure. National Review’s David French explains one critical reason why that’s the case: “A small attack on three targets is a pinprick strike. The mullahs don’t care about [150] casualties, and a small attack does not materially impair Iranian striking power. Pinprick strikes are often seen as displays of weakness, not strength. A small attack would, however, grant the pretext for yet another Iranian escalation — perhaps one that would claim American lives, thus generating a much larger American response.”

Iran is no Libya or even Syria — its technology and military capabilities are far more sophisticated. So airstrikes should be reserved for extreme cases. Sanctions, on the other hand, are demonstrably effective. CNBC reports that the pressure placed on Iran’s oil exports from previous sanctions has pushed that nation’s economy onto a precipice. Any further reduction in this revenue source would likely result in a complete economic meltdown.

Columnist Ken Blackwell also suggests engaging the Iranian resistance. “The Iranian regime itself is clearly well aware of the potential for its own overthrow and is reacting with the expected sense of panic,” writes Blackwell, who concludes, “There is perhaps no greater threat to the Iranian regime’s hold on power than policies which make it clear that pressure from the international community and from Iran’s democratic resistance are one and the same.”

On that note, The Wall Street Journal observes, “Now would be a good moment for Europe to get off the fence and join the U.S. pressure campaign. … The same goes for the many Democratic presidential candidates who keep saying they’ll return without conditions to the 2015 nuclear deal.” Iran will continue to provoke, but its ability to do so without shooting itself in the foot is getting harder by the day — and will get even harder if global powers coalesce around the right pressure tactics.

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