My friend Eli Lake believes that the Trump Iran Policy (aka “maximum pressure”) is working and should be embraced by the Europeans. By “working” he means that tougher sanctions will force the mullahs back to the negotiating table, and produce a better deal.
By waging economic war on Iran, the president is using the same tactics that pressured the regime into nuclear negotiations in the first place. Despite the PR campaign from Iran’s foreign ministry, the evidence shows that threats and pressure work against the Islamic Republic. This time around, Trump and his cabinet have vowed that any negotiations will also address Iran’s support for terrorism and its missile proliferation, along with regional meddling.
I think Eli has Trump right, but he’s got the history wrong. I think the Iranians agreed to the negotiations with Obama when they concluded that the Americans had no will to challenge the Tehran regime, and that any deal reached with Obama would be very favorable to the mullahs. And they were right on both counts. Indeed, they were righter than they dared dream. Throughout the negotiations, Obama/Kerry repeatedly introduced concessions the Iranians hadn’t even asked for, and the final deal gave Tehran enormous wiggle room. As we now know, thanks to Israeli spies (NOT our own intelligence), the Islamic Republic cheated on the nuclear weapons all along, as we should expect in the event of any new arrangement. Nonetheless, Trump is indeed pushing for new negotiations, even publicly giving Khamenei the best phone number to use whenever they’re ready.
I am afraid this means that we have sent the mullahs the same mistaken message Obama did: we are not prepared to undertake regime change in Iran, no matter how many carriers we send to the Gulf, and only a campaign of regime change will accomplish what should be our mission: the defeat of the Islamic Republic. Instead, we are ratcheting up economic sanctions and “deterring” what are said to be Iranian plans to attack American targets in the region.
There is really nothing new here. Iran has been waging war against us for forty years, hiring assassins, paying rewards to anyone taking American hostages, pouring money into Hezbollah and Hamas, manufacturing roadside bombs for use in Iraq and Afghanistan, and sending terrorists into the homeland. I don’t believe these efforts will be curtailed by “maximum pressure” or new negotiations. Iran is simply waging war against us as it has since 1979, and it can be counted on to continue, in league with the Russians, Cubans, Chinese and North Koreans. The only way to end it is by defeating them, and our most potent weapon against them is political, not economic. We must foment revolution in the Islamic Republic, where most Iranians would support it, if they saw the United States was with them. Revolutions don’t just “happen” when things are really bad. They are made by revolutionary leaders. The Iranians know that. It’s why they constantly invoke the memory of Reza Shah.
And there’s the rub; there is no sign we really want to change the Tehran regime, even though the country is in turmoil, even though there are daily demonstrations in all areas of the country, from the factories to the bazaars, among all classes, tribes and faiths. I don’t know why Trump doesn’t embrace this stratagem. The United States is the only truly revolutionary country in this world, and Trump often sounds like he understands it. Bolton and Pompeo do too. For America to be truly great again means that America must have the will to reshape the world, to topple our enemies and bring freedom to their oppressed peoples. It is a world tailor-made for revolution, the American Revolution. Look at Venezuela, look at the outbreak of anti-regime demonstrations in Cuba, where gay protests have erupted. Imagine!
I think that Trump would make an admirable revolutionary leader, in many ways he has done that here at home. And I think he’d love it. I certainly would.