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Friday, January 31, 2020

Containment? Or the other Cold War?

Ages ago I was in a college geography class, during the Cold War era, 1986 or 87. The professor, as liberal as you could get, was rather critical on the views of Ronald Reagan. I can hear her now, "The Soviet Union is not something that is going away, it is there, it will continue to be there, we can't defeat (emphasis hers) it, we must live and deal with it..."

The Soviet Union was rotting from inside and collapsed in less than five years.

I've posted the STRATFOR article on Ronald Reagan's passing countless times on this blog, and I'll post the critical passage now:
...We can debate Reagan's role in the fall of the Soviet Union forever. What cannot be disputed is this: He believed the Soviet Union was going to collapse, and he believed it would happen within his lifetime. He believed this at a time when almost no one else believed it. He was ridiculed for his simplistic thinking, silly generalizations and lack of sophistication by serious thinkers and policy makers all over the world. But the fact is that the cowboy was absolutely right in his reading of history — and the world-renowned scholars were wrong. We know of no major Soviet expert in or out of government who was prepared to argue in 1980 that the Soviet Union would not survive the century. Reagan did argue that. He was laughed at. He was right...

One of the truisms I've learned over 55 years, don't confuse intelligence and education.

One of the distinction's of the Cold War was focus on one primary enemy, the Soviet Union. Now we have multiple "smaller" enemies (Russia, China), often non-national (International terrorism, non-governmental cyber warfare), that require different focus. But of all the nations in the Middle East, Iran is our greatest threat, in both areas of operations, conventional and unconventional. And they are intermingling with Russia and China, for example, holding naval exercises together to keep the US and Israel off balance. No question, Iran is a threat to the stability of the Middle East, and multiple other counties that rely on Persian Gulf oil. Now we have other serious thinkers and policy makers all over the world telling us we can't take the mullahs out in Tehran, we must learn to live with them. And we will just give them 150 billion to show we're nice guys, in spite of them continuing to develop nuclear weapons, and the means to deliver them. A question never asked of, or answered by, the Obama regime, "If Iran doesn't want nukes, why are they developing ICBMs?"

From this mornings's Foreign Policy, the latest wisdom of the appeasers:

The Only Sensible Iran Strategy Is Containment
The most effective plan against the Islamic Republic has always been the most obvious—and the one nobody in Washington seems willing to try.


I trace my interest in the Middle East back to the Iranian hostage crisis—those 444 days of yellow ribbons...

The subject hasn’t gotten any less confusing since. In the past 40 years, U.S. policymakers have endlessly debated a central issue in U.S.-Middle East policy: What should the United States do about Iran? The answer has often proved to be elusive in large part because of domestic politics. The traumas of the late 1970s and early 1980s have rendered parts of the U.S. policy community needlessly bellicose, others credulously dovish, and the remaining wary of both in search of a “just right” strategy to modify Iran’s behavior.

But the central question has now taken on a new urgency. U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to kill Iranian military commander Qassem Suleimani in a drone strike on Jan. 3 has raised fears of violent escalation—even war—between the United States and Iran. It’s time to directly address the question of what exactly the United States can do about Iran—and fortunately, there’s a good answer available, even if it’s not satisfying for anyone in Washington.

What’s already clear is that the current U.S. approach needs improvement. Despite his hit on Suleimani, it is not at all clear what the president wants to achieve regarding Iran. He has combined hawkish rhetoric with periodic offers to negotiate with Tehran while pursuing a “maximum pressure” policy that until recently did not employ military force. Depending on whom one asks or who is doing the asking, the administration is seeking either full-scale regime change or simply a more robust nuclear deal than the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—the agreement negotiated by the Obama administration, which set limits on Iran’s nuclear program...

Actually it empowered the Iranian nuclear development program. After giving Tehran 150 billion, did they use it to relive the suffering of the Iranian people? No. But they are putting in large arms purchases to Russia and China. And yes, I think it's fair to say, Trump wants regime change in Tehran, like other sane people.
...Yet just because the Trump administration and the politics of U.S.-Iran relations have imposed a binary choice on policymakers—regime change or the existing nuclear agreement—does not mean that there are no other possibilities. The U.S. government could pursue, for example, a “grand bargain” with Iran that would settle all the outstanding issues—notably, the nuclear program, Iran’s use of proxies to meddle in the region, and the release of Americans held in Tehran—between the two countries. Yet the most rational option under the present circumstances is another strategy that no longer goes mentioned in Washington: containment.

Consider the other potential strategies in turn. Regime change has, for obvious reasons, become a scary term and a policy one would think officials and analysts would want to avoid given the U.S. experience in Iraq, but it remains an option if only because influential people continue to advocate for it. It would not necessarily require a march on Tehran, but it would be costly, requiring the United States to provide far more military, political, and financial resources to Iran’s opponents around the region than current policy. This seems an unlikely scenario for two important reasons: 1) The potential for further regional chaos is high, and 2) the American people and Congress would likely be reluctant to support policies that would undoubtedly include augmenting the already sizable deployment of almost 45,000 American soldiers, sailors, and airmen in the Persian Gulf.

Not necessarily. You start with open support to the protesters in Tehran and elsewhere. Then you use lethal (e.g. small arms, explosives) and non-lethal (money, intelligence, communications) assistance to aid their efforts. Of particular need is video communications of the protest. Tehran has blocked its citizens from accessing the Internet in the past, and if threatened, it will do so again. Video of Iranian troops shooting protesters will show the world what they are dealing with in the mullahs. And why it needs to be changed.
Returning to the JCPOA or negotiating a new nuclear deal that addresses some of the defects in the original agreement—for example, the failure to set limits on Iran’s ballistic missile program—is the flip side of Washington’s Iran debate. Reviving the JCPOA would mean acceptance of Iran’s alleged right to develop nuclear technology, sanctions relief, and the normalization of Tehran’s commercial ties with the world. It would also require implicit acceptance of Iran’s role in the region, especially its influential positions in Lebanon and Syria.

The problems with returning to the JCPOA or an enhanced agreement that addresses Iran’s missile program, for example, are similar to the one’s the Obama administration encountered, including opposition from regional allies and hawks in Washington determined to scuttle a deal, with one additional, notable challenge: Iran’s leaders would likely be reluctant to enter an agreement with the United States after the Trump administration breached the JCPOA in May 2018. The Iranians would also resist limits on their ballistic missiles given their reliance on those weapons for regional deterrence. There are also constraints on the U.S. side: In order for the Trump administration to make a new agreement work, it would need to convince its regional allies of its wisdom...

Legitimately, the Iranians have reason to fear the US intent. After Muammar Gaddafi gave up his WMD program, and started to assist us with intelligence, we (should I specifically say, Obama and Mrs Bill Clinton), did what? Overthrew his government, got him killed, and threw his nation into chaos. The Obama regime initiated another disaster in Egypt, almost giving an ally and stable nation over to the Muslim Brotherhood. Not to mention, if the Trump administration developed Iran Nuke Deal II, the Democrats in the Senate will suddenly rediscover the Treaty Claude in the Constitution, and demand to have it approved by 2/3 of the members present.

But it doesn't matter, the mullahs want a nuclear force, and have vowed to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. And back to the issue of "containment," during the Cold War, it was a plausible policy. The Soviets were concerned with only one issue, regime survival. But they were not insane. They had a well developed nuclear force, but they would not attack Alaska or Great Britain to simply "wipe them off the map." The same cannot be said of the leaders in Iran. They have as stated government policy the elimination of Israel, which will only lead to their own destruction, if they attempt it. It's an open secret that Israel has had nuclear weapons since the early 70s, and they have the means to deliver them to every nation in the Middle East. And, in spite of multiple attacks on their soil, they have not used them. If the mullahs had a similar force, does anyone believe it would not be used?

Sorry, containment is not a plausible policy with Iran. We must use the indirect means at hand to weaken, then collapse the regime. Over half the population in Iran is less than 40 years old, they have no memory of the Shah, but they know they are living in 3rd World conditions while the rest of the world is light years ahead of them. While the Obama regime had no issue with destroying friendly (Egypt) or non-hostile (Libya) governments, the one nation in the Middle East it would not interfere with was Iran. You can speculate why, but hopefully, a new administration will encourage this movement, filled with people risking their lives. Not to mention, the end of the Iranian regime will help stabilize a very critical, but unstable, area of the world.

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