During his campaign, Trump was clear that the Iranian regime’s aggressive, destabilizing meddling in the region’s affairs should be forcefully confronted.
After taking office, Trump became the first US president since Iran became an Islamic republic in 1979 to appear live on TV and articulate to the American people, and the world, America’s strategy for the Iranian regime.
Trump’s Iran strategy is transparent and clear (and comprehensive — including three major pillars of Iran’s foreign policy), and it focuses on four main areas: Addressing Iran’s nuclear program and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reached between China, France, Russia, Germany, the UK, the US, the EU and the Islamic republic; Tehran’s ballistic missile program; the Iranian regime’s meddling and military interventions in the region; distinguishing between the Iranian regime and the Iranian people.
Trump has stated that Iran’s nuclear deal was a victory for the Iranian regime, but a blow to the West and to the region. The mullahs are receiving billions of dollars in revenues while continuing to pursue their nuclear and hegemonic ambitions. And the JCPOA’s sunset clauses removes all restrictions on Iran’s nuclear enrichment program after 2025.
Regarding Tehran’s ballistic program, Iran has fired over a dozen ballistic missiles since the nuclear agreement was reached. Trump has urged the international community to consider imposing sanctions on the regime’s ballistic activities. Trump also urged US Congress to pass legislation that would prevent the Iranian regime from obtaining intercontinental ballistic missiles.
When it comes to Iran’s meddling and aggressive behavior in the region, Trump identified the main culprit: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which has significant control over Iran’s economic and political sectors. The IRGC uses its military wing, the Quds Force, to train, arm and fund terror groups across the region in order to advance the regime’s agenda. Through instability and conflicts, the IRGC is expanding its influence and achieving the mullahs’ hegemonic ambitions.
Trump’s Iran strategy is anchored in historical realities as well. It draws on the history of the mullahs since 1979 and reveals why the regime has not moderated its behavior — why concessions and compromises will not change the fundamental revolutionary ideals, nor the foreign policy, of the Iranian regime, and why that regime cannot be trusted.
Trump laid out Iran’s history of terror and hostility ranging from the 1979 hostage taking of American diplomats in Tehran and the 1996 bombing of American military housing in Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia, to training Al-Qaeda operatives later involved in the 1998 attacks on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 224 people, and wounded more than 4,000 others.
Trump’s strategy also makes a clear distinction between the Iranian regime and the Iranian people, who are the first victims of the regime’s brutality, corruption and suppression. But has Trump actually managed to turn his Iran strategy into effective action?
The US president has made considerable progress toward achieving its objectives. In the coming year, we will probably witness further steps against
the Iranian regime.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
While one year is really too short a period over which to assess the implementation of such a comprehensive strategy, Trump has made significant progress toward its objectives.
In February, Trump unveiled new sanctions against 13 people and 12 companies in response to Iran’s ballistic missile tests, followed by sanctions of another 18 entities in July. He has also imposed sanctions against the Iranian regime for its ongoing support for terrorism.
In August, Trump approved sanctions that not only target the IRGC and Quds Force, but also penalize any US entity that deals with these Iranian institutions and their affiliates.
In October, Trump declined to certify the nuclear deal and introduced further robust sanctions against the IRGC.
It is worth noting, too, that the president’s Iran strategy is multilateral; he has sought the cooperation of regional powers, including Saudi Arabia, to confront the threat posed by the Iranian regime.
Some may argue that Trump has not yet fulfilled the promises of his Iran strategy. But strategies for specific countries can take months to be drafted and reviewed once a new president assumes office. Taking this fact into consideration, significant progress has been made in the first year of Trump’s presidency.
The previous US administration, under former President Barack Obama, had implemented an opposing policy of appeasement toward the Iranian regime — full of compromises and concessions — that turned a blind eye to its aggressive behavior.
Trump’s Iran policy, though, is comprehensive, multi-dimensional and well-informed. During his first year in office, the president has made a considerable amount of progress toward achieving its objectives. And in the coming year, we will probably witness further steps against the Iranian regime.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce