Rubin: Why can’t the Trump team produce an Iran strategy that works?

By Trudy Rubin
Philadelphia Inquirer

On the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic revolution, the rhetoric between team Trump and the ayatollahs has risen to fever pitch.

In his State of the Union address, President Trump labelled Iran the “world’s leading state sponsor of terror” and “a radical regime” that does “bad, bad things.” The United States has withdrawn from a 2015 nuclear accord with Tehran and reimposed harsh economic sanctions.

Pushing back, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Friday that the Iranian slogan “‘Death to America’ means death to Trump and (national security adviser John) Bolton and (secretary of state Mike) Pompeo.” Khamenei’s website said the slogan would remain alive until the United States changed its “evil and mean” ways.

Yet squeezing the Tehran regime has become the centerpiece of what passes for Trump’s Mideast strategy. The president and his top officials have made pretty clear their real goal is regime change. Bolton even publicly predicted to a fringe Iranian opposition group in 2017 that the Tehran regime would fall by 2019.

This kind of magical thinking about Iran infuses Trump policy (although Pompeo, at least, should know better). Rather than check Tehran’s Mideast misbehavior, it sets the United States up to fail.

Before I get to why, let me emphasize that Iran does indeed meddle dangerously in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and the Arab Gulf. Some prime examples: Shipping tens of thousands of missiles to the Lebanese Hezbollah militia to point at Israel, vastly expanding the wretched Syrian civil war, and heating up the Syrian border with Israel.

But the U.S. response has been confused and contradictory. Rather than work with European and key Arab allies, such as Iraq, to check Iran, the White House has tried to bludgeon them into confronting Tehran directly. And it has made maximalist demands on the ayatollahs that they cannot meet …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


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