As President Trump, Secretary of State Pompeo, and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin continue efforts to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East, many of us are left bemused as to what more can be done about Iran.
It’s easy for pundits to quip that we can do better, apropos the Mighty Mouse theme, “Here I come to save the day.” But Iran is no comic character, and its regime is not acting alone.
In addition to sanctions against Iran, we need to disable Iranian enablers in Iraq.
This administration is doing far more than the previous administration, which by its actions and inaction enabled Iran to obtain sanction relief through a poorly drawn up “deal” known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, through which hundreds of millions of dollars flowed into Iran. These funds have been used to fund Iranian proxy militias in Iraq, and to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis.
President Trump continues to look at alternatives to the escalating tensions in the region, which have included an attack on U.S. military equipment and direct targeting of our allies. The president has been calculated and patient to take appropriate and balanced responses when faced with an agitator such as Iran. We all know that the crippling sanctions imposed by the U.S. are taking a heavy toll on the Iranian economy, as well as its citizens. The U.S. has had to continually ramp up sanctions and request even more punitive actions against individuals within the Iranian regime through our Department of Treasury. The question we must now ask is, what more can be done outside military response?
Having served our country in wartime for more than a decade through military service, as well as private sectors abroad, I experienced personally the turmoil and suffering a country endures as a result of war. I’ve been the recipient of Iranian explosive form projectile (EFP) while serving in Iraq in 2003, and from 2006-2010. Still today I continue to experience Iranian influence operations within Iraqi ministries. I’ve watched these influence operations in Iraq over the years continue to strengthen through various political parties looking for support to take control of parliament or the prime ministerial seat.
Iran is winning the media, intelligence, and influence wars against the United States in Iraq and Syria. But how can this be?
While our sanctions are certainly working, as we see through the desperate measures and posturing of Iran, sanctions are not enough. We know Iran is not looking for kinetic war with the United States, which would only serve to hurt the Iranian regime’s influence in Syria, Yemen, and with its own citizens.
We know that Iran has been directly responsible for numerous proxy attacks against the U.S. and our allies, including attack on the USS Cole (Yemen), on U.S. troops and diplomatic personnel (Iraq), by Houthi Rebels (Yemen), and ongoing Hezbollah influence operations (Lebanon).
In addition to sanctions against Iran, we should start looking at sanctions against those in Iraq who are helping Iran, directly or indirectly. These additional sanctions could include sanctions against those in Iraq who violate Iranian sanctions through unlawful oil and gas purchases, refining, or the enablement of corruption in Iraqi ministries that funnel 10% or more of contract values to Iran through the purchases.
These violations of current Iranian sanctions will continue to occur, regardless of additional sanctions imposed against Iran. We must look to an enforcement policy that will prevent the circumvention of sanctions. If we do nothing, then this type of indirect funding of Iran’s regime will continue to buy for Iran precious time that we and other members of the free world do not have. This is a ticking time bomb that is could trigger another kinetic war.
There’s no doubt about America’s defense capabilities, and our ease to wipe out Iran with military might if the decision is made. There are other ways to avoid kinetic war, however, there are other ways to weaken Iran’s influence in the region, and to ensure more peace through U.S. and allied strength.
Our leaders must start targeting Iranian enablers outside Iran. We must improve monitoring cross-border money transfers. We also need a smarter strategy to counter Major General Qassim Sulamani of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and its Quds Force, which carries out intelligence activities outside of Iran. These Iranian entities, after assisting in pushing ISIS (aka Da’eysh) from Iraq cities, continue their military planning, militia funding, and training within Iraq.
Iraq is the key to victory over the current Iranian regime, which has declared war on us. Iraq needs to remain our ally. We must ensure that Iranian enablers in Iraq cease their enabling, while at the same time reassuring our friends in Iraq that we will not leave their sides when we are needed!
Cory Mills is a highly decorated combat veteran with experience in multiple theaters of operation. He is Founder and CEO of PACEM Solutions International and PACEM Defense LLC, which acquired AMTEC Less Lethal Systems, Inc., in 2018. For most of his adult life, Cory Mills has honorably served U.S. military, diplomatic, and USAID missions. After Mr. Mills was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army, he served as a subcontractor for the U.S. State Department from 2005-2010. During this time, he worked with thousands of diplomatic missions in the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and the U.S. Consul in Erbil. In 2016, the Republic of Iraq credited PACEM with assisting operations which led to the raising of Iraq’s flag at the Fallujah Governor’s Office for the first time in nearly three years. Prior to this, ISIS was flying the flag of the Caliph in Fallujah. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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