Opposition within a state facilitates external pressure by outside nations.
During the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves on January 1, 1863. They joined the War against the Confederacy and reinforced the Union Army’s efforts to win the war. In this respect, Frederick Douglass said, “It’s better to die free, than live as a slave.”
Likewise, President Reagan’s war against attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf would have been more effective if there were more internal groups that placed pressure on Iran.
Similarly, President Trump’s “maximum pressure on Iran,” strategy is more likely to succeed than Reagan’s, because there now are more opposition groups within Iran, which act in concert with the outside pressure.
Two Schools of Thought
There needs to be a comprehensive strategy to fracture the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Any maximum pressure campaign is going to fail to achieve its objectives and risks driving a wedge instead between the Iranian people and the United States, for either seemingly siding with the regime as occurred under Obama or, conversely, by punishing them for the regime’s ills, as has occurred under Trump.
While there is a greater need for a “comprehensive strategy” to fracture the IRGC, that approach fails to include an internal opposition group to include in that strategy.
So, the argument here is that Trump’s administration has been welcoming to a resistance group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). As a result, the NCRI places even more pressure on Iran. But that effort would be more successful if the president explicitly recognizes, mentions the name, and supplies the NCRI technological tools to thwart Iran from attacking the Iranian people.
It is critical to find a way to accelerate regime change by Iranians. They seek free access to the internet and messaging applications like Telegram. Its main appeal is security.
Telegram’s promoters claim all its activities — including chats, groups, and media — are encrypted. Even if intercepted, they won’t be visible, without being deciphered first. Such a tool would allow protestors to communicate about where to gather next, before the IRGC could crack down on the demonstrators,
Arming the NCRI would be unnecessary and ill-advised, because it would tarnish the NCRI as a mere tool of America, rather than one of the genuine representatives of the Iranian people.
America is not just protecting oil interests as it was in the 1980s.
Today, Trump is trying to disable Iran’s nuclear capabilities, state-sponsorship of terrorism, and expansionist foreign policy against friends like Saudi Arabia and Israel.
By maintaining economic pressure on Iran while restraining from escalating the conflict, Iran’s economy is being devastated, thus eventually forcing the regime to reallocate resources from its military attacks on drones.
The Rial, Iran’s currency, has dropped during this period of tanker wars. During February 2018, Iranian police clamped down on foreign-exchange offices while the central bank introduced new measures to encourage bank deposits, as a depreciation of the rial threatened to push up prices at a time of growing discontent.
The last time a tanker war broke out in the Persian Gulf, it lasted for years. America has witnessed a tanker war in the same region before: The bloody Iran-Iraq war from 1980 to 1988 played out in the Gulf, and hundreds of ships owned by or associated with the two sides were targeted in the conflict.
“The U.S. is no longer as dependent on the flow of oil from the Gulf as back then, but all of our allies are. So, for the functioning of the global economy, it’s still a vital waterway,” said Nicholas Burns, former undersecretary of state under President George W. Bush.
First, it is critical to have an opposition group like the NCRI to reinforce a maximum pressure strategy.
Second, initial restraint can lead to deescalation of a conflict. Indeed, when the IRGC launched an attack against an American drone during the third week of June 2019, although Trump was urged to retaliate, he listened to the skeptics who said it would be a costly mistake.
Third, Trump’s approach toward Iran should be different from Reagan’s strategy because circumstances have changed: Trump has more “escalation-dominance,” than Reagan in the Persian Gulf.
Prof. Raymond Tanter (@AmericanCHR) served as a senior member on the Middle East Desk of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration, Personal Representative of the Secretary of Defense to international security and arms control talks in Europe, and is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan. Tanter is on the comprehensive list of conservative writers and columnists who appear in The Wall Street Journal, Townhall.com, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Human Events, The American Spectator, and now in Newsmax. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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