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Beyond sanctions, how the U.S. can pressure Iran

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week delivered a powerful speech that essentially defined U.S. policy objectives toward Iran by three noes: no nuclear program, no regional terrorism and aggression, and no domestic oppression. He offered a three-part strategy to achieve those goals, the central element of which is “unprecedented financial pressure” on Tehran. But even with Iran’s currency crisis and popular discontent, sanctions can only be one tool in a broader U.S. plan. Instead, Washington should build upon Pompeo’s approach to pursue a comprehensive strategy of pressure against Tehran.

Iran’s nuclear program and aggression expanded during two decades of U.S. sanctions, and while intensified sanctions might have helped bring Iran to the table in 2013, they didn’t secure an effective nuclear deal in the time allotted. Nor was the more recent prospect of renewed sanctions sufficient to fix the fundamental flaws of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal – namely, its ignoring Iranian ballistic missile development, not mandating inspections anywhere anytime, and permitting restrictions on Iran’s enrichment program to lapse.

Credible military threats have proven more effective in blunting Iran’s nuclear program. Tehran suspended elements of its nuclear program in 2003 following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, fearing its regime could be next. Iran also took pains not to cross a “red line” that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu literally drew – with a marker, on a printed graphic representing Iran’s nuclear program – in a 2012 speech to the U.N. General Assembly.

Pompeo did suggest the military threat in the second element of his strategy. He promised to “work closely with the Department of Defense and U.S. regional allies to deter Iranian aggression,” committed to crushing........

© Japan Today