“President Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal for a simple reason. It failed to guarantee the safety of the American people from the risks created by the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed recently.
He spoke repeatedly of an Iranian “march across the Middle East,” painting Tehran as the mastermind of regional instability which poses an active, existential threat to U.S. friends and allies.
The “path forward,” as Pompeo described it, is for Iran to submit to onerous new U.S. sanctions and concede to a long list of demands. It is a list so exacting it is difficult to believe. Pompeo could sincerely think it is a step away from conflict: The “ultimatum is so extensive and unreasonable that we have to assume that the administration intends for it to be rejected.”
We should admit that military intervention and a Washington-orchestrated regime change attempt in Iran would be a dangerous mistake with catastrophic consequences. The United States’ well-remembered history of meddling in Iranian politics; our extensive and costly military interventions already underway across the greater Mideast; and Iran’s size and wealth all make invasion a fool’s errand.
War with Iran is not required to keep our friends and allies safe, let alone America. On the contrary, it will put U.S. troops needlessly in harm’s way.
Pompeo committed the U.S. to escalating tensions with Iran with the hope Tehran will yield—even though it has not done so after 40-plus years of pressure. We can say with certainty this approach will not make Americans safer, nor will it bring the Middle East closer to stability, the Iranian people closer to liberty, or the Trump administration closer to its stated foreign policy aims.
The path forward cannot be unrealistic, unilateral ultimatums and barely concealed threat of invasion, as Pompeo proposed. That path leads to generational war at a price of blood and treasure the United States need not, and should not, pay.
The best possible solution to US and Iran conflicting goals would be for both sides to take a very pragmatic approach—to align their interests in areas of shared goals, while agreeing to disagree, and even competing in many areas across the wider Middle East—“frenemies,” if you will.
Looking specifically at Tehran’s military capabilities, one quickly realizes Iran’s military, while not nearly as advanced as the United States’, is certainly tough enough to constrain Washington’s strategic objectives through large parts of the Middle East, especially as one approaches Iran’s borders.