Trump’s Iran strat­egy will se­cure Mid­dle East

Wash­ing­ton’s change of tack will help bri­dle Tehran’s hege­monic am­bi­tions in the re­gion

Gulf News - - Opinion - Spe­cial to Gulf News

or those of us who have suf­fered and warned of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion doc­trine, which has al­lowed Iran to roam freely in our midst and in­ter­fere unim­peded in our do­mes­tic af­fairs from the GCC states to the Mediter­ranean and brag about con­trol­ling four Arab cap­i­tals un­der Obama’s watch, the newly de­clared Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion strat­egy an­nounced in the mid­dle of last month, de­cer­ti­fy­ing Iran’s nu­clear agree­ment, sanc­tion­ing Iran’s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards and dou­bling down on Iran’s mis­chief, rogue state be­hav­iour and bal­lis­tic mis­siles test­ing, was mu­sic to the ears.

What was re­fresh­ing for us in the GCC states to hear was US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s new ap­proach of not lim­it­ing the ter­ror­ist groups to the Sunni ex­trem­ist groups, which the US ad­min­is­tra­tion fo­cused on, but ex­pand­ing the fo­cus to in­clude Iran and its sup­ported and funded Shi­ite groups, as a long-term threat.

In a blis­ter­ing speech lay­ing out his new strat­egy, Trump in­sisted, “The Ira­nian regime con­tin­ues to fuel con­flict, ter­ror and tur­moil through­out the Mid­dle East and be­yond. Im­por­tantly, Iran is not liv­ing up to the spirit of the [Ira­nian nu­clear deal].” Al­though Trump did not walk out of the Iran nu­clear deal, he nev­er­the­less de­cer­ti­fied it and left it to Congress to deal with it.

Trump kept re­peat­ing, even as a can­di­date, the Iran deal was “one of the worst and most one-sided trans­ac­tions the US has ever en­tered into.” More­over, Trump in an­nounc­ing his new strat­egy threat­ened to act “with the US al­lies to counter the regime’s desta­bil­is­ing ac­tiv­i­ties… and vowed that “the agree­ment will be ter­mi­nated” if Congress fails to act on the nu­clear agree­ment.

As Trump has a laun­dry list of US griev­ances against Iran: “Its sup­port for mil­i­tant groups like Hezbol­lah, alarm over its test­ing of bal­lis­tic mis­siles, and fun­da­men­tal mis­trust of its re­pres­sive, theo­cratic lead­er­ship… This regime has fu­elled sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence in Iraq, and vi­cious civil wars in Ye­men and Syria. In Syria, the Ira­nian regime has sup­ported the atroc­i­ties of Bashar Al As­sad’s regime and con­doned Al As­sad’s use of chem­i­cal weapons against help­less civil­ians, in­clud­ing many, many chil­dren. Those are all fair hits: Iran re­ally is desta­bil­is­ing the Mid­dle East in a whole host of ways….”

Trump kept re­fer­ring through his speech to the regime, and not Iran... “The regime re­mains the world’s lead­ing state spon­sor of ter­ror­ism, and pro­vides as­sis­tance to Al Qaida, the Tal­iban, Hezbol­lah, Ha­mas, and other ter­ror­ist net­works. It de­vel­ops, de­ploys, and pro­lif­er­ates mis­siles that threaten Amer­i­can troops and our al­lies. It ha­rasses Amer­i­can ships and threat­ens free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion in the Ara­bian Gulf (it drove Iran nuts) and in the Red Sea. It im­pris­ons Amer­i­cans on false charges. And it launches cy­ber­at­tacks against our crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture, fi­nan­cial sys­tem, and mil­i­tary. Trump ac­cused the “regime of harbouring high-level ter­ror­ists in the wake of the Septem­ber 11 at­tacks, in­clud­ing Osama Bin Laden’s son. In Iraq and Afghanistan, groups sup­ported by Iran have killed hun­dreds of Amer­i­can mil­i­tary per­son­nel…” Th­ese ac­cu­sa­tions have not been lev­elled against Iran by any US pres­i­dent.

Trump, never men­tioned Iran as “gov­ern­ment of Iran”, but re­ferred in one of the harsh­est speeches by a US pres­i­dent, as a dic­ta­tor­ship, fa­nat­i­cal and rough regime.

Bold strat­egy

Al­though Trump’s strat­egy in­sisted as he de­scribed it: “The regime re­mains the world’s lead­ing state spon­sor of ter­ror­ism, and pro­vides as­sis­tance to Al Qaida, the Tal­iban, Hezbol­lah, Ha­mas and other ter­ror­ist net­works.” He even went so far as to ac­cuse Iran of col­lud­ing with North Ko­rea: “There are also many peo­ple who be­lieve that Iran is deal­ing with North Ko­rea.” Trump re­buked Iran’s rogue be­hav­iour, an­nounced a tougher stance against Iran, upped the ante and ended Obama’s ap­pease­ment pol­icy and threat­ened to im­pose new sanc­tions against Iran, which the US Congress en­thu­si­as­ti­cally em­braced, and did not waste time to pass leg­is­la­tion slap­ping sanc­tions against Iran and its proxy Hezbol­lah in Le­banon.

Trump’s new strat­egy looks bold and tough on Iran, and is a re­fresh­ing de­par­ture from Obama’s de­struc­tive ap­pease­ment, which sub­or­di­nated and tol­er­ated Iran’s med­dling and desta­bil­is­ing ac­tiv­i­ties to reach the nu­clear agree­ment at any cost to serve his legacy, it gave Iran by de­sign or in­ad­ver­tently a green light to ad­vance its project and em­bold­ened Iran to stage a ma­jor of­fen­sive to be the hege­mon of the re­gion, em­pow­er­ing its prox­ies and al­lies, sup­port­ing the bru­tal and thug­gish regime of Bashar Al As­sad in Syria, and un­der­min­ing the US al­lies in the GCC states. But it does seem the Ira­nian in­ter­ven­tion that up­set the sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity of the re­gion pushed Obama to re­think his flawed strat­egy. The hard­line ap­proach by Trump will be a ma­jor vic­tory if it suc­ceeds in de­ter­ring Iran, ar­rests its ma­lig­nant in­ter­ven­tions, forces its al­lies to change its desta­bil­is­ing be­hav­iour and shenani­gans and act more like a nor­mal state, rather than a per­ma­nent rev­o­lu­tion­ary regime, bent on ex­port­ing its brand of rev­o­lu­tion­ary zeal, sec­tar­ian mili­tias and hege­monic be­hav­iour.

Pro­fes­sor Ab­dul­lah Al Shayji is a pro­fes­sor of Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence and the for­mer chair­man of the Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence De­part­ment, Kuwait Univer­sity. You can fol­low him on Twit­ter at www.twit­ter.com/@doc­shayji.

Niño Jose Here­dia/©Gulf News

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