CBS(7/26) Trump hints U.S. could withdraw from Iran deal, and
Reuters(9/11 ) Exclusive: Trump to weigh more aggressive U.S. strategy on Iran – sources, said to be authored by Mattis.
Iran is the latest Middle East entity with aspirations to a caliphate stretching to the shores of the Levant. We want to prevent this. The means:
- Economic sanctions.
- Nuclear and missile restrictions, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
- Re legitimization of Sunni governance, and Kurd governance, in suitably defined territories. In their resistance to encroachment by Iran, they create an insuperable barrier for Iran’s land forces.
- Support the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in Yemen. There is a note of hope, with reported cracks (Stratfor) between Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthis. It’s surprising this took so long, since Saleh was originally the Houthis’ chief persecutor.
Only the last two, part of the Mattis plan, can be effective in thwarting the Iranian caliphate. The threat of revocation of sanctions and treaties would be expected to cap Iran’s confrontational behavior. It does not appear so to us, but they can undoubtedly be worse if they want to. The mullahs miss the old revolutionary fervor, and know they can get it back if Iranians are deprived of material connection with the West. Put concretely,
- In the Iran-Iraq War, Iran relied heavily on martyrs.
- The ideological theme that created the martyrs is still alive, maintained in reserve by the Revolutionary Guards.
- As with post-9/11 terrorism, Iranian martyrs came almost exclusively from lower economic strata.
- Impoverishing Iran increases the size of this class and so, the available pool of martyrs.
- In the warfare of this region, the pool of martyrs is far more important than disadvantaging Iran’s technical war machine by sanctions.
A couple of reasons not to withdraw from the treaty:
- Simultaneous withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan, and implementation of the Mattis plan, do not compliment each other. It doesn’t leave Iran with anything to lose.
- Iran’s technical resources are much greater than North Korea’s, and we’ve seen what the Koreans can do. The political climate does not exist to isolate Iran to the degree of North Korea. A noncompliance declaration converts an unsolved problem into another unsolved problem that is probably worse.
If the Mattis plan goes well, then in several years, there may be a somewhat stable territorial division of Syria. The Sunnis of Anbar may crystallize around a stable politics. The Kurds may finally have a stake in the ground. The Houthis may be pushed back into the northwest corner of Yemen. Iran’s push may stagnate.
Then, if still feeling the urge, U.S. diplomacy can toss another coin into the Iran nuclear fountain, and hope it clogs the drain.