(September 23, 2020 / JNS) You cannot overestimate the importance of the new path charted out by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo earlier this week when he announced the reimposition of U.N. sanctions on Iran.
What’s important is not their global impact, but the determination of the Trump administration in countering the regime in Tehran. The steps announced may be legally problematic and hence will not be upheld by Russia and China and even the E3, who are ostensibly U.S. allies. The former group wants to sell arms to Tehran (and oil), and the latter is keen on doing business with the ayatollahs.
The new sanctions add another layer to the sanctions that were placed by the administration two years ago, and which have already drastically damaged Iran’s economy and hurt its illicit activities. Despite the E3 trying to find a mechanism that would bypass the sanctions, this has failed because leading European firms have been too wary of being blacklisted by the United States and being shunned from the U.S. market.
Trump’s detractors have tried to cast his recent steps against Iran as an electoral move that is designed to show conservative voters that he is tough on Iran. While acting in such political matter is indeed a natural thing to do for every candidate, these critics have ignored Trump’s very consistent and very effective action to weaken Iran.
They keep ignoring that despite his rhetoric being rather all over the place, his policies have not changed that much over this tenure on this matter. He might not be drafting a doctrine, but his actions can together be cobbled into a clear approach against Iran, designed to focus on its strategic threat to America and its allies, and on the best means of dealing with it.
The most severe threat posed by the Iranian revolution is regional hegemony. Iran and its proxies could control oil, various strategic points, and potentially, the religious epicenter Mecca. This would change the balance of power in the global arena and Europe should be more concerned than others, but it has consistently tried to appease the regime.
Trump wants to withdraw most U.S. troops from the Middle East; that would be good for Israel and America’s Arab allies, as long as it also weakens Iran.
The United States could deter the meddling of other powers in the region; it could give political backing (such as against various U.N. initiatives), and provide economic, military and technological aid. Trump can also do so by encouraging regional alliances among countries that are worried over Iran’s rise, as well as Turkey’s.
The question is: What does the region need? Lovely visions of peace and democracy, or a new order that allows a good chance of dealing with the principal dangers lurking? Former President Barack Obama had inspiring speeches and even got a Nobel Peace Prize for his rhetorical accomplishments, but Trump has the determination that works in Israel’s favor.
Dan Schueftan is the director of the International Graduate Program in National Security Studies at the University of Haifa’s National Security Studies Center.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.
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