Tags: iran | hezbollah | yemen | syria

Staying the Course on Iran

Staying the Course on Iran
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media prior to a departure from the White House June 18, 2019, in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

By Thursday, 20 June 2019 03:05 PM Current | Bio | Archive

For decades now, a major supporter and exporter of terrorism has been the radical Islamic dictatorship of Iran.

The Iranian ayatollahs who hold their nation in a fanatical grip are desperate to cling to power and spread their hateful ideology. They have financed terrorist groups like Hezbollah which threaten Israeli security; they have helped prop up the Syrian dictator Bashir Assad; and they have been behind the insurgent conflict in Yemen. In each case Iran’s leadership has sown the seeds of violence and discord.

Added to this dangerous mix has been the threat from Iran to develop nuclear weapons with which to further terrorize the world. The goal of Iran’s leaders has been clear: make Iran a nuclear power and thereby paralyze any effective measures against its aim to dominate the Middle East. The response from Western powers was the toothless “Iran nuclear accord” which failed to even require adequate inspection of Iran’s nuclear facilities and gave the Iranian government billions of dollars in “sanctions relief.” The hope was that this appeasement would change Iran’s dangerous behavior, but the result has been that the ayatollahs became even more emboldened and aggressive in promoting terrorism across the Middle East region.

What fundamentally changed the equation against Iran’s belligerence was President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the ineffective Iran nuclear deal and impose “maximum pressure” against the Iranian government. Tough new sanctions included tightened financial and banking restrictions and a strict prohibition against Iranian oil exports. The result has been a dramatic decline in Iran’s oil export revenue, as its oil exports dropped by 80%.

The effect of this sanction pressure has been to significantly weaken Iran’s financial position. Iran today is an economic basket case with a stagnant economy and high inflation. It’s people — especially young Iranians — are restive and unsatisfied with their government. The old “death to America” chants ring hollow on ordinary citizens struggling to scrape out a living in a failing economy.

For Iran’s proxy terror groups like Hezbollah, the fall-off in financial support from Iran has been a major hit. Hezbollah’s military capabilities have been seriously eroded: its soldiers aren’t getting paid, crimping their enthusiasm to launch military strikes against Israel. And in Yemen there are signs the Iranian-backed insurgency is looking for a way to end the conflict there.

Iran’s diminished war-making capacity has the potential to move the Middle East towards a more stable, peaceful future, but only if the U.S. and other nations stay the course with tightened economic and military pressure on Iran. While I believe that President Trump does not want war with Iran, I agree that the only way to change Iran’s behavior is to starve its treasury and contain its military aggression.

On that score, the recent attacks on oil tankers near Iran prove the point. The evidence Iran undertook these attacks is overwhelming. U.S. surveillance video clearly shows an Iranian gunboat removing an undetonated mine from one of the stricken tankers. These brazen actions and Iran’s shooting down of an American drone aircraft over the critical Strait of Hormuz shipping lanes prove just how desperate Iran is to destabilize oil transport and weaken international resolve on Iranian sanctions.

The result has been just the opposite. The international community is united in its defense of free navigation, and the oil tanker attacks didn’t create even a blip on world oil prices. That should give Iran’s leaders real pause, as it shows that the old battle plan of interfering with oil shipments is no longer apt. The world today is literally awash in oil, and oil prices are at historic lows.

Which leads me to the conclusion that the single biggest card the U.S. can play in the Middle East these days is that we are no longer dependent on Middle East oil. The best assurance of our security is our energy independence. We should be pumping as much American oil and gas as we can find. Building the pipelines and refining capacity to handle this oil is literally in America’s strategic interest.

And now that we don’t have to worry about oil from an unstable region of the world, America is in the strongest position to influence events there. President Trump is right to keep the pressure up on Iran to give up its export of terror and its dangerous nuclear ambitions. Iran must decide between conflict it cannot ultimately win and peace and prosperity its people desperately need.

This column was originally published in the Long Island Herald Community Newspapers.

Former Senator D’Amato served a distinguished 18-year career in the U.S. Senate, where he chaired the Senate Banking Committee and was a member of the Senate Appropriations and Finance Committees. While in the Senate, Mr. D’Amato also Chaired of the U.S. Commission on Cooperation and Security in Europe (CSCE), and served on the Senate Intelligence Committee. The former Senator is considered an expert in the legislative and political process, who maintains close relationships with Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. He is regularly called upon for his advice and counsel, and is recognized for his incisive analysis of national and international political affairs. The former Senator will share insights gained from his years in Washington “with a clear-eyed view of the political forces that shape the world we live in today.” To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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For decades now, a major supporter and exporter of terrorism has been the radical Islamic dictatorship of Iran.
iran, hezbollah, yemen, syria
Thursday, 20 June 2019 03:05 PM
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