London, 7 Apr – US President Donald Trump vowed to act aggressively towards Iran and its destructive behaviour in the Middle East. Not long after he was inaugurated his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, declared that Iran was on notice.
However, a few months later it appears that the Trump administration doesn’t really have a strategy that will bring long-tern change and stability to the Middle East. It is increasing military operations which might just cause even more fragmentation and lead to the emergence of more non-state actors.
Instead of improving the situation in the Middle East, the Trump administration could inadvertently be making it worse.
So how should the US proceed?
Firstly, Congress needs to adopt an approach that fully considers sanctions before they are imposed. A comprehensive approach will let Congress deal with Iran’s policies in the most effective way possible and it will encourage difficult dialogue about proposed increases in military interventions.
Secondly, Congress needs to carefully examine the proposed funding decreases for national security institutions. These agencies are essential in the quest for stability in the Middle East and to decrease funding would be to let the fight against ISIS last even longer and could jeopardise any integrated approaches to the Iran issue.
Another way to proceed would be for the US to work alongside allies in the Middle East. Before becoming President, Trump declared that the Iran deal – the “worst” deal ever – would be ripped up. However, even those who agreed that the deal was badly drawn up and very focused on appeasing the Islamic Republic say that to dismantle it would cause more harm than good. Saudi Arabia and Israel agree that, flawed as it is, the nuclear deal provides a framework that ensures Iran does not become nuclear in the immediate future. They have called on the US to concentrate on curbing Iran’s destructive behaviour in the Middle East while enforcing the terms of the nuclear deal.
Focusing on incentives that will encourage regional allies to cooperate will be a positive next step too. Together, the countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will be stronger, with each nation offering support and intelligence to ensure a more favourable way forward. Already Gulf capitals have appreciated President Trump’s tough talk with regards to Iran, especially when considering the weak rhetoric and lack of action from his predecessor.
Balance is also essential when dealing with Iran. Not being aggressive enough will make no difference to the Iranian regime, whereas being too aggressive could be a precursor to an escalation of hostility.
Whatever the next step may be, one thing is for sure – military moves must be clear and targeted. The United States must take advantage of its leverage to steer the Islamic Republic in the right direction.