I wish I could say I agreed with Michael Makovsky and Jonathan Ruhe’s Washington Post op-ed about Iran but I can’t. I agree with them that Iran’s mullahocracy is reprehensible. And I agree with this:
To truly loosen the regime’s grip on power and on the region, the United States must explicitly make regime collapse its policy. We don’t mean “regime change” through a U.S. ground invasion, such as Iraq in 2003, but the imposition of consistent, comprehensive pressure, beyond economic sanctions, to exacerbate Iran’s internal tensions so that the regime is ultimately undone from within.
but I disagree with just about everything else. For example:
After the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, and especially after the 2015 nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA), Iran became confident that the United States had neither the means nor the will to challenge it for control of the Middle East.
I am agnostic as to whether Iran wants to “control the Middle East” but I certainly don’t want to do so and I don’t believe that most Americans want to control it, either. The emphasis of U. S. policy should be to mitigate the risks of a perennially out-of-control Middle East. Or this:
This requires confronting and raising the costs of Iran’s imperial project, not just those actions that threaten only American lives and assets. The United States must keep up the attacks against Iranian assets in the region and join Israel in rolling back Iranian aggression.
U. S. policy is rightly directed towards defending American lives and assets not controlling the Middle East. And there are multiple risks in “confronting” Iran, especially for an America that is tired of war. Among these are inspiring Iranians who otherwise might be predisposed in our favor to “rally ’round” the mullahocracy through patriotism. And our too cozy a relationship with Israel is actually an impediment to Iranian regime collapse rather than an asset. Israel is if anything less popular within Iran than the mullahs.
In my view we should maintain our sanctions regime against Iran, encourage our allies to do the same, and do what we can to insert wedges between Iran and its proxies or allies. And whatever became of soft power? I strongly suspect more young Iranians aspire to the things we want than to those the mullahs want. We should promote that. Less of the apocalyptic talk would probably be helpful as well. Otherwise strategic patience is probably our best posture. The mullahs will undermine themselves more effectively than we ever can.