The goal of US policy on Iran, really to exert "maximum pressure," should be the change of the mullah-led regime in Tehran before it is armed with nuclear weapons, becomes the hegemon of the Persian Gulf and commands much of the world's oil and gas. Pictured: Iran's "Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (left), and President Hassan Rouhani. (Photo by Behrouz Mehri/AFP via Getty Images)
The goal of US policy on Iran, really to exert "maximum pressure," should be the change of the mullah-led regime in Tehran before it is armed with nuclear weapons, becomes the hegemon of the Persian Gulf and commands much of the world's oil and gas. Iran is already seeking to take over Iraq, OPEC's second-largest crude oil producer, with the fifth-largest oil reserves, in the world.
But helping to spur the end of the Iranian empire -- or, at least, keeping its power in check -- cannot be accomplished without a clear knowledge and understanding of the nature of the regime.
As much of the mainstream the media and members of the political class revealed in their comments about the January 3 targeted killing of the mass murderer, Qasem Soleimani -- commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) -- there is a grave misunderstanding, particularly among Democrats, about the ideology and terrorist threat that the regime poses to the United States and the rest of the world.
Take Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-Or), for example. The 22-year veteran of the US Congress recently seemed to justify Iranian aggression against the US. In a newsletter on his website on January 7 -- in which he criticized the killing of Soleimani, Blumenauer wrote, in part:
"...Most Iranians have an affinity for the United States, dating back to the constitutional revolution of 1905. America was respected, revered, and appreciated. But it was the United States that chose to side with the British in overthrowing a popularly elected government in Iran in 1953 in order to restore British control over Iranian oil. We were partners in restoring the Shah to the throne, replacing their democracy and ushering in an era of repression. The United States helped foster the Iranian revolution where we were perceived as being their enemy. There was a reason Iranian crowds chanted 'death to America."
To set the record straight: The so-called "coup" in Iran in 1953 was more complicated than is reported. The Iranian Constitution at the time -- prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and replaced him with the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini -- gave the Shah the power, which he exercised, to dismiss then-Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. The reason the Shah dismissed his prime minister was that Mosaddegh was turning over Iran's British-managed oil fields to the Soviet Union and negotiating with the Kremlin to establish a military base in the Persian Gulf -- both of which the Shah's British and American allies viewed with alarm.
The real root of Iran's current global terror campaign, which it carries out through the IRGC, is religious, ideological and hegemonic.
According to the section of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran titled "An Ideological Army":
"In establishing and equipping the defense forces of the country, the focus shall be on maintaining ideology and faith as the foundation and the measure. Consequently, the Army of the Islamic Republic and the Islamic Pasdaran Revolutionary Corps are formed in accordance with the aforementioned objective. They will undertake the responsibility of not only guarding and protecting the borders, but also the weight of ideological mission, i.e. striving (jehād) on the path of God and struggle on the path of expanding the sovereignty of the law of God in the world; in accordance with the Qur'anic verse: 'Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies' (8: 60)."
In other words, Tehran seeks to "expand sovereignty of the law of God in the world" in accordance with the Quran. To achieve this, the ayatollahs need to take control of the Persian Gulf -- and the trillions of dollars of oil wealth that it contains -- as well as nuclear weapons.
Killing Soleimani, a key figure in accomplishing the above goal, triggered a debate about US foreign policy in relation to Iran that makes no sense. To argue that an enemy combatant with the blood of hundreds of Americans on his hands should not have been targeted, critics of the Trump administration would have to claim that Soleimani had no role in terrorist attacks against America, or that whatever role he played was justified in some way.
Even though a number of critics of the Trump administration acknowledge that Soleimani was key to Iran's hydra-headed terror state, in a new twist, some are claiming that the New Year's attack on the US Embassy compound in Baghdad and the January 7 attack on American troops were acts of retribution over Trump's 2018 withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal reached between Iran and world powers in 2015, which incidentally the Iranians never signed.
Susan Rice, former National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama, seems to think that those missile attacks, and other terrorist activities perpetrated by Iran or its proxies, would not have taken place had the US administration upheld the JCPOA – which, by the way, Obama had effectively bribed Tehran into accepting by awarding it $150 billion. In an interview with MSNBC on January 8, Rice said:
"In the years since the signing of the deal in 2015, up until President Trump's unilateral withdrawal abandoning our allies against the advice of his advisers, there were no proxy attacks by Iranian proxies on US personnel in Iraq. There were no efforts by Iran to attack our drones in the Persian Gulf or attack shipping... President Trump decided recklessly to withdraw unilaterally from the nuclear deal and to impose so-called 'maximum pressure' — crippling sanctions — and it was in the wake of that that we found ourselves in this escalatory cycle that's led to where we are today."
Rice failed to mention something that Obama, Trump, Israel and other observers has known all along: Iran never actually upheld its side of the JCPOA – which in any event was a bad deal: it did not prevent the development of long-range ballistic missiles, and merely postponed the time at which Tehran could continue enriching uranium for building an unlimited number of nuclear bombs.
Aiding the Iranian people to oust the regime does not, however, require the US to launch a full-fledged war with the Islamic Republic. On the contrary, a four-pronged strategy of maximum pressure-- involving continued financial pressure on the mullahs; helping local forces expel Iranian proxy groups from Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen; supporting the Iranian protesters through a robust social-media campaign promising a future without repression and terror, and using appropriate military force to deter and protect our interests -- would get the job done without troops on the ground.
Meanwhile, Washington should work on building European consensus on negotiating a new nuclear agreement that ends Iran's uranium enrichment and dismantles its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.
Dr. Peter Huessy is President of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense consulting firm he founded in 1981. He also is a guest lecturer on nuclear deterrent studies at the US Naval Academy. He was also for 22 years, the senior defense consultant at the National Defense University Foundation.