Maximum pressure the right policy to confront Iran

Maximum pressure the right policy to confront Iran

Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command. (AP Photo)

America’s Iran policy has been heading in the right direction since President Donald Trump took office, as steadily escalating economic sanctions have inflicted serious damage on the regime’s economy.

The White House’s “maximum pressure” policy should be complemented by support for the Iranian people, whose financial security had already been crippled by the ruling theocracy’s mismanagement and corruption. That is why, on Friday, several thousand Iranians will gatherin front of the State Department building in Washington and march to the White House to echo the people’s desire for the overthrow of the current regime. The rally, organized by the Organization of Iranian-American Communities, will express support for the policy of maximum pressure, especially on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).

The regime’s priorities have been displayed by every successive increase in budget for the IRGC, which Tehran uses to wreak havoc in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and beyond. This activity has been one of the clearest targets of the Trump administration’s sanctions.

Members of Congress have also expressed their backing for a free and democratic Iran. Through House Resolution 374, recently introduced in Congress, they also condemned the regime’s state-sponsored terrorism.

By continuing to undermine Iran’s ability to project force throughout the region, the US and its allies can effectively address serious recent threats of paramilitary and terrorist attacks stemming from Tehran. For example, in June 2018, European authorities thwarted a regime terrorist attack against a rally of Iranian dissidents and opposition groups in Paris. An Iranian “diplomat” accused of being involved in the plot now sitsin a Belgian jail awaiting trial.

Some in the Western media have tried to downplay the intelligence pointing to such threats. Reports have suggested that the details were never shared with the public by the likes of US National Security Adviser John Bolton. But, in reality, it has been made clear that commentswere overheard from IRGC officials in recent weeks, urging their proxy forces to prepare for conflict with US assets and allies.

The regime and the IRGC have also been involved in multiple attacks on oil tankerspassing through the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

All of these activities call for a vigorous Western response, and that is just what the Trump administration has been offering. Yet the media is filled with breathless warnings of the potential for sanctions and military deterrence to put the US on the path toward war with the regime.

Policymakers should not allow themselves to be manipulated by arguments that are based on false pretenses or simple cowardice.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, recently said that the deployment of an American aircraft carrier, B-52 bombers and additional military personnel to the Middle East had prompted Iran to “step back and recalculate.” He acknowledged that this did not mean there was no longer any threat, but he also took the opportunity to affirm that the intelligence justifying those deployments had been as clear and credible as any he had ever seen.

Neither American nor European policymakers should allow themselves to be manipulated by arguments that are based on false pretenses or simple cowardice. Maximum pressure is the right policy and should persist.

Additionally, policymakers should take care to listen to what the Iranian people have to say on the matter. Obviously they do not want their country to be further scarred by war, but even they reject the notion that maximum pressure on the regime will lead in that direction. Friday’s rally will be held in solidarity with an ongoing protest movement inside Iran, as well as the democratic efforts of the main opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its president-elect Maryam Rajavi. Protests in Iran been characterized by slogans like “death to the dictator” and calls for the same fundamental changes in the regime’s behavior that the Trump administration has been demanding.

Anyone who is in a position to support the strategy that aspires to that end should do so. The recent congressional resolution “recognizesthe rights of the Iranian people and their struggle to establish a democratic, secular, and non-nuclear republic of Iran.” That should be a guideline for any comprehensive US strategy.

At the same time, Washington should designate the MOIS as a terrorist entity to further thwart the regime’s terrorism abroad and suppression at home. Human rights violators and the Office of the Supreme Leader (Beit Al-Rahbar), which is involved in pervasive corruption and astronomical theft, should also be placed under sanctions.

If history is any guide, the days of Iran’s aggression, oppression and dictatorship are numbered. And, more importantly, the Iranian people have both the desire and organizational capabilities to realize that outcome themselves. The West should not turn a blind eye.

  • 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. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
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