By Amir Basiri

Perhaps the most challenging foreign policy dilemma facing the Trump administration is none other than Iran. Issues include Iran’s nuclear program, a regional policy focused on increasing its hegemonic reach, a network backing a conglomerate of militia groups rampaging the entire region, a dangerous missile program, and continuing human rights violations. The question before Washington is how to tackle these issues without launching yet another unnecessary war or adopting an appeasement-based policy.

This situation has become ever more sensitive as Tehran once again resorted to a new round of hostilities in successfully testing a naval missile hitting a target at 250 kilometers, launching a new pair of ballistic missiles last weekend, and again dispatching its fast-attack boats to harass a U.S. Navy surveillance ship in the international Gulf waters of the Strait of Hormuz. The provocative move was described as “unsafe and unprofessional” by a U.S. official.

Washington has continuously witnessed those favoring efforts to find so-called “moderates/reformists” inside the regime. However, after 38 years in power, the mullahs have through their atrocious domestic crackdown and wreaking havoc across the Middle East proven this perspective to be nothing but a hoax.

Wrong mentality

Such unfounded hope has focused on a figure emerging from within the regime to spearhead reform measures and ultimately shift significantly its foreign policy. Advocates of such an approach also argue mistrust and misunderstanding have rendered hostilities between the Washington and Tehran, adding the source of this mistrust has been U.S. hostility against Iran.

 

Supporters of this policy call on Washington to be less hostile on Tehran to allow “moderate” factions rise, leading to a gradual reform and Iran emerging as a responsible regional powerhouse.

Such a misconception dates back to the 1980s when voices in Washington described as “moderate” former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who went on to father Iran’s nuclear program and purge a slate of political dissidents abroad. Former U.S. president Bill Clinton pursued a similar approach with “reformist” Mohammad Khatami, who viciously oppressed the 1999 student uprising in Iran.

The climax of these strategic mistakes by Washington came under the administration of Barack Obama, who turned his back to the 2009 uprising, wrote secret letters to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and with his rapprochement in effect provided Iran a green light to engulf the entire Middle East in flames, as we have so unfortunately witnessed in Syria and Iraq. So much for Obama’s mentality of signing a nuclear deal with Iran to result in the transformation of the mullahs’ and their foreign policy altogether.

Disastrous results

The concessions made by Obama in this regard to Iran were unnecessary, to say the least. Not only was Iran allowed to preserve its ballistic missile and nuclear program, Syria is now a radicalized state thanks to Tehran’s meddling. One can truly argue Obama’s approach allowed Tehran to support Assad in the massacre of over half a million Syrians, the displacement of 12 million and the entire country left in ruins.

Obama also turned a blind eye to Iran brewing disaster in Iraq through the Revolutionary Guards’ proxy militias that continue to massacre the Sunni minority to this day, all under the pretext of battling Daesh (ISIS/ISIL).

Speaking of the Guards, the Iranian opposition held a press conference in London on Tuesday unveiling the IRGC’s secret network of 90 docks used to send arms to militia groups across the region and smuggle a whopping $12 billion of goods in the ongoing effort of taking control of Iran’s economy and providing illicit funds for its terrorist activities.

The Obama-crafted nuclear agreement actually encouraged the Iranian regime to increase its belligerence and press the gas pedal on its radical Middle East agenda.

The road ahead

The Trump administration should not forget the failure of his predecessors in adopting a correct Middle East policy. The U.S. has lost credibility, influence, commerce, and most importantly the trust of the Iranian people. This is not to mention the loss of thousands of American lives and massive treasury wasted.

Iran poses the most substantial threat to U.S. Central Command's multifaceted area of responsibility, CENTCOM commander Gen. Joseph L. Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

“We are also dealing with a range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region,” he continued. “It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world."

The main cause has been none other than the grave misunderstanding about the reality of Iranian politics and internal factions that leaves no room for “moderates” or “reformists.” The history of appeasement/engagement/rapprochement vis-à-vis Iran’s mullahs is enough proof that such an illusion must be set aside for good.

Amir Basiri (@amir_bas) is an Iranian human rights activist.

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