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To contain Iran, look first to Yemen – not sanctions

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In the Middle East, all eyes are fixed on Syria’s ongoing carnage and the international response to the latest chemical attack by Bashar al-Assad’s regime. But if the United States seeks stability in the region, it needs a strategy to contain Iran’s threats to its neighbors. The most effective place to start defies conventional wisdom: it is building an international coalition for a ceasefire in Yemen.

The time to act is now, in advance of the May 12 deadline for the Iran nuclear deal. If President Donald Trump withdraws from the agreement, sanctions will be re-imposed on importers of Iranian crude oil. I led the 2012 negotiations to impose oil sanctions on Iran. Re-imposing these sanctions will be harder and is likely to make them less effective, potentially undermining the kind of international consensus needed to check Iran’s strategic encirclement of the region.

Travel to the Middle East and you will hear that Iran has surrounded the region through proxies in Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon (through Hezbollah). In neighboring states, the complaint about the Iran nuclear agreement is about imminent threats: it does not stop Iran from fueling war in Yemen, fighting Assad’s battles in Syria, controlling politics and security in Iraq, and supporting Hezbollah as a weapon of terror. Containing Iran, many argue, is the first step toward a stable Middle East.

Then why start with Yemen? On November 4, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen launched a........

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