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Combating Iran at center of Trump’s new security strategy

US President Donald Trump speaks about his administration’s National Security Strategy at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC, Dec.18, 2017. (AFP)
NEW YORK: US President Donald Trump unveiled a new security strategy on Monday, branding Iran a major global threat as his administration officials praised counter-extremism efforts led by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Trump’s policy blueprint detailed how his America First election campaign agenda translated into a global trade, economic and diplomatic policy that would help the US outpace China, Russia and other competitors.
In the Middle East, the policy calls for cooperation with US allies to counter the “malign” threat of Iran spreading across the region via the Lebanese militia Hezbollah and other proxy forces.
Addressing a crowd of about 650 dignitaries at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, Trump blasted the “incomprehensibly bad deal” his predecessor, Barack Obama, struck with Iran and other world powers to stall Tehran’s nuclear development.
He praised his own move in October to impose new sanctions on Iran’s powerful security force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, making it harder for named Iranian businesses to access the global financial system.
The accompanying 68-page policy document goes further: “Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, has taken advantage of instability to expand its influence through partners and proxies, weapon proliferation, and funding.
“It continues to develop more capable ballistic missiles and intelligence capabilities, and it undertakes malicious cyber activities … Iran continues to perpetuate the cycle of violence in the region, causing grievous harm to civilian populations.”
Before Trump’s speech, an official from his administration noted the positive steps taken in Saudi Arabia since Mohammed bin Salman was elevated to crown prince.
He praised the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology, which Trump visited when in Riyadh in May, where some 700 staff work round-the-clock countering the online propaganda of Daesh and other extremists, he said.
Though Iran expands its influence across the region, it is vulnerable to setbacks, said the official. Tehran’s efforts to create a “land bridge” connecting proxy forces in Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean have been hampered, he said.
“One of the things that’s made this land bridge more complicated to establish is that it’s not so easy to walk through northern Iraq any more since our partner forces, with US and coalition support, defeated Daesh, liberated Mosul and have most of that territory under control.”
The strategy document — which has been 11 months in the making — is required by law and is designed to form a framework for US foreign policy.