The Iran deal has been killed. With it, Iran’s grand designs for regional hegemony are badly wounded.
President Trump’s decision last week to withdraw from the deal comes at a time when the Iranian economy is suffering the effects of a decades’ long decline. After the Obama Administration secured its ill-advised executive agreement with Iran over the mullahs’ nuclear weapons program, the United States gifted Tehran with with pallets of American cash and cleared the way for European multinationals to gobble up all sorts of lucrative business deals with Iranian state-owned enterprises. That breathed new life into the sclerotic theocracy.
U.S. policy until now has favored Iran, whether intentionally or not. The Iraq War of 2003 removed Iran’s chief rival in the region, allowing Tehran to expand its influence across the Middle East into the Levant and practically on to Israel’s doorstep, sowing all sorts of chaos along the way. With Obama’s legacy-seeking 2015 agreement, the pariah state suddenly had legitimacy in the international community, as well as a legal path toward acquiring nuclear weapons within the decade.
Ending the Iran deal proves that the president is committed to strengthening traditional alliances, as it shows how dangerous the Obama Administration’s feckless gambit was to begin with.
The Iran deal didn’t effect a fundamental transformation in Iran or make sane democrats out of mad mullahs. All it did was paper over the real differences between the West and Iran while giving the regime the time it needed to gather its strength, while the United States lowered its guard.
In the week since Trump made his announcement, Iran’s parliament chanted “death to America!” while incinerating an American flag, and Iran’s proxies launched 20 missiles into Israel from Syria. What’s more, the mullahs are vowing to restart their illicit nuclear program at “industrial strength”—as if they actually ever discontinued it. And they’ve reiterated their commitment promote Islamic terror groups around the world.
None of this is President Trump’s fault. The Iranians have been doing these things for decades. Now, they’ve been called out and they’re having an epic geopolitical temper tantrum.
Nevertheless, Trump’s detractors contend that his decision to withdraw from the deal undermines the United States diplomatically. They take for granted that Iran’s participation in the deal represented a legitimate pathway to peaceful integration in the global economy. Thanks to President Trump’s decision, some “experts” claim, we have now ensured that Iran will charge headlong into its destabilization strategy for the Middle East—and they will do it sooner rather than later.
Never mind that Iran never stopped backing Hezbollah in Lebanon. Never mind that Iran has been funding and arming the Islamist insurgents who regularly lob missiles from Yemen into Saudi Arabia. And never mind that Iranian armed forces—including the elite Quds Force—have operated more or less unchecked in Syria, Iraq, and western Afghanistan. Boosters of the Iran deal would ignore all of that for a worthless agreement and an illusion of “peace.”
Sometimes diplomacy works well. But diplomacy without the implicit backing of force—or, worse, mealy-mouthed diplomacy—negates any benefit a negotiated settlement may have.
This is especially true with rogue states, such as Iran and North Korea. Just days after Trump withdrew from the deal, Israel hit the bulk of known Iranian military bases in Syria. How did Iran’s ally Russia respond? By announcing its forces in the region would not interfere with Israeli military operations directed against Iranian targets in Syria.
More strangely, the religious blood feud between the Persian Shiites of Iran and the Arab Sunnis of Saudi Arabia has made the Saudis (and the other Sunni Arab states) look at Israel as a regional ally. Obama inexplicably opened the door for Iran to invade the Middle East. Trump has closed it. And, rather than the United States standing as the only force in the way of Iranian revanchism, an unlikely (and powerful) coalition of Sunni Arab states, Israel, and Russia have effectively joined with America in stuffing Iran back into its proverbial box.
None of this would have happened had the United States remained a party to Obama’s awful deal.
It is likely that tensions, as well as hostile actions involving Iran and its neighbors, will continue—and possibly intensify—over the next year. Even so, the termination of the deal will likely ensure that the Iranian threat dissipates quickly, as they are deprived of economic opportunity. Trump didn’t just kill the Iran deal. He very likely prevented the possibility of a long-term, costly nuclear confrontation between the Sunni Arabs, the United States, and Israel on one side, and Iran and Russia on the other.
A new balance of power is being rekindled that will isolate Iran, secure America’s allies, ensure America’s strategic dominance in the region, and respect Russia’s interests as well—all of which lends itself far more to regional stability and world peace than any ill-conceived giveaway to Iran could.
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