Is it Time for the U.S. to Craft a New Iranian & Middle East Security Strategy? (Part III)

by PETER HUESSY May 12, 2017

Avoiding a nuclear Iran: options for a new middle east security policy 

The most important issue facing US Middle East policy is Iran and whether it will be a nuclear armed state. It should be understood, the threats from Hamas and Hezbollah to Israel, the potential continued spread of ISIS, the war in Syria, the continued conflict in Iraq, the civil war in Yemen, and the counter-insurgency in Afghanistan all involve Iran to one extent or the other. 

And with nuclear weapons, Iran makes all of these problems worse. These weapons if acquired would establish Iran as the dominant power in the region, with implications for regional security, the free flow of oil from the Gulf, the future of American allies in the area, and in particular the very survival of Israel.

But even without nuclear weapons, the instability caused by Iran has cost the US trillions of dollars and thousands of lives.

A dominant assumption is that the current post JCPOA phase of dealing with the Iranian nuclear program has successfully achieved America's objective of shuttering the mullah's search for the bomb. At one recent CSIS forum on missile defense, an analyst said the "Iranian nuclear problem is solved".

Is it indeed?

An honest appraisal of the JCPOA would conclude we have hit a pause button on some admittedly key aspects of the Iranian nuclear program and that is how much fuel the Iranians can enrich and to what level.

But the deal unfortunately leaves intact the centrifuges, the hidden nuclear laboratories where military related work has been done, the ballistic missile programs which could in the future deliver nuclear warheads, the network of terrorist organizations through which a nuclear warhead could be delivered, and the ongoing cooperative work on ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons with for example North Korea that have the potential of circumventing the JCPOA.

Even more worrisome is that the elimination of significant economic sanctions against Iran is turning out to be extremely difficult to reinstate or reverse, making the threat of re-installing such actions appear hollow even if down the road we discover serious Iranian violations of the JPCOA.

As we now know, following the "adoption" of the JCPOA, Iran's ballistic missile developments, terrorist activities, military campaigns and human rights violations have continue apace, even worsened. Apparently, what JCPOA supporters are asking us to do is to put aside these dangers while assuming Iran's admitted weak adherence to the terms of the JCPOA will suffice to protect us.

That is a strategy that could be self-defeating.

As Iran develops its ballistic missiles and terrorist organizations, it is also improving the capability to produce nuclear weapons fuel as its centrifuges will be more capable and modern. Although they cannot under the JCPOA enrich sufficient quantities of nuclear weapons fuel to make a weapon, as the current nuclear agreement prevents them from doing, they can even under the current agreement eventually produce whatever nuclear weapons fuel they wish.

In fact, during the ensuing period prior to the end of the agreement, the Iranian nuclear weapons fuel making infrastructure will become industrial-strength per General Michael Hayden, the previous director of national intelligence.

Iran gets to keep all its thousands of centrifuges, even as it gets assistance in building much more advanced centrifuge systems. This enables it in the final analysis to produce more weapons grade fuel sooner than they could when the JCPOA was signed.

Why not follow the Libyan example and have all centrifuges removed from Iran? What has Iran done to merit any more trust then we gave Gadhafi at the time of the Libyan 2006 agreement? And why do we have to advance their centrifuge capability when that very activity is what we are trying to prevent in the first place? Such policy choices should be considered.

Particularly unsettling is the absence of information about the side agreements between the Islamic Republic and the United Nations, and between the Islamic Republic and the United States.

In the secret side agreements that have been revealed to date, we have learned that the economic sanctions on key banks in the Islamic Republic have been removed long prior to the date established in the publicly available nuclear agreement.

We also know that areas of nuclear weapons work in the Islamic Republic will remain off-limits to international inspection. And significant inspections will be done by the Islamic Republic itself and not by trained United Nations inspectors. And the United States and other parties to the agreement are required under the JCPOA to assist the Iranian Islamic Republic in the development of more advanced centrifuges for the enrichment of nuclear weapons fuel-- without limit.

Thus we are left in a quandary of seeking on the one hand to enforce strictly a weak and inadequate deal or jettison the deal and see even the limited boundaries around Iran's nuclear weapons program be undone.

So what is the alternative?

This question of course then runs us right back to the beginning of our essay laid out in part one.

Are there reasonable grounds to believe that the time is ripe for the United States and its Middle Eastern allies to put together a new, but sound, positive, and effective Middle East regional security policy? And which would have as its core an option the US and its allies should assess: the elimination of the Iranian Revolutionary Islamic thirst for violent jihad (found in the Iranian constitution) and a complete end to its nuclear weapons and its ballistic missiles. And would not such an objective require nothing less than the elimination of the current regime?

In pursuit of such a policy, here are some options we might consider, some of which have already been adopted or are in the process of being adopted.

First, Israel and the United States could jettison the fiction of both the "peace process" and a two-state solution. This could free the Arab neighbors of Israel to put together an alliance and coalition to defeat ISIS, the rebels in Yemen as well as checkmate Iran.

Second, instead of removing missile defenses in Eastern Europe, as was done in 2009, the new administration could deploy new missile defense systems in Poland and Romania, just as we work with our Gulf allies to deploy better missile defense systems in that region.

Third, fatally flawed legal maneuvers such as JASTA as a tool for bringing a resolution to the 9-11 attacks could be amended to prevent copycat lawsuits against American servicemen and women which are now starting to emerge.

Fourth, the Proliferation Security Initiative could be expanded to interdict the trafficking in missile and other defense technology between Iran and the DPRK and weapons from Iran to the Houthis rebels in Syria.

Fifth, an embargo on refined oil products being shipped to Iran could also be put on the table. When combined with US success in dramatically increase our own oil and natural gas production, such a tool of statecraft becomes more realistic. Especially in light of the reported $170 billion in foreign investment in oil, gas and refinery projects now ready to take hold in the United States.

Sixth, a serious initiative to take down and freeze the financial assets of Iran, its ally North Korea and their terror group friends could go a long way to slow Iran's march toward regional hegemony.

Seventh, the administration wants to have stronger border and visa enforcement. That would help thwart the kind of terrorist attacks Iran threatened against the Ambassadors from the KSA and Israel.

Eighth, the administration has a 30 day plan to destroy IS but have also examined how to do so without empowering Iran. Certainly eliminating these ISIS mass murderers would free up resources then capable of dealing with Iran.

Ninth, already the administration has called for $54 billion in new defense spending as well as a related ballistic missile defense review. Both can result in added resources and technology being available to defeat Iranian aggression, particularly deploying advanced missile defenses to the Persian Gulf, northwest Asia and the US homeland.

Using all these elements in a combined strategy, they could be all crafted as a means to help implement and make successful a new American Middle Eastern strategy. Such a strategy might have a greater chance of success than past policy.

A strategic goal should be examined-the end of any future nuclear armed Iran, (the ostensible objective of the JCPOA) but the end of the revolutionary jihadi regime in Tehran itself.

A more capable armed Iran in the long run, even without nuclear weapons--- with better conventional weapons, more dangerous and capable ballistic missiles and an expanded terror network with which to attack us--should not be the "price we have to pay" to keep the JCPOA in the short run.

Unlike the past some 37 years of US security policy, a new national security strategy on Iran should at least decide whether to face the true nature of the regime. Imbedded in its constitution is its call for revolutionary political Islam. And for the use of whatever violent tools it can obtain to achieve such ends including nuclear weapons.

History might guide us here. For example, it was not enough to reduce dramatically the Soviet era nuclear weapons, although that was achieved through the INF and Start treaties. The objective of ending the Soviet empire remained the focus of American security policy.

So, too, American policy on Iran should at least examine the idea of ending the regimes quest for Islamic conquest and regional hegemony, and its war against the "Big and Little Satan."

If we do not, we may end up only delaying not ending the possible emergence of Iran as a full- fledged, nuclear armed, revolutionary Islamic state, dedicated to our destruction and armed with the most awful weapons every invented.

Is it Time for the U.S. to Craft a New Iranian & Middle East Security Strategy? (Part II)

Is it Time for the U.S. to Craft a New Iranian & Middle East Security Strategy? (Part I)

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Peter R. Huessy is Director for Strategic Deterrent Studies at the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies as well as President of Geostrategic Analysis, a defense consulting firm he founded in 1981. He is also a guest lecturer on nuclear deterrent policy at the U.S. Naval Academy and formerly Senior Fellow in National Security at the American Foreign Policy Council and JINSA.


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