JEDDAH: Two top American officials have suggested a series of steps for the new Donald Trump administration which would prevent Iran from wreaking havoc in the Middle East.
Writing in Time magazine on Saturday — a day after Donald Trump took charge at the White House — Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida and a 2016 Republican candidate for president, and Dennis Ross, a former aide to Barack Obama and a counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said the new administration should move quickly to cut off Iran’s financial pipeline.
They lamented the fact that while Tehran was “saber-rattling and threatening our allies in the region,” the response from Washington was muted.
“Time and again, the Obama administration ignored the comprehensive nature of the Iranian threat and soft-pedaled non-nuclear sanctions, seemingly out of fear that Iran would walk away from the nuclear deal,” they wrote in a piece that is being applauded as well as feverishly shared on social media.
They said new bipartisan efforts in Congress to turn back Iran’s destabilizing playbook should be widely supported.
“The Preventing Destabilization of Iraq and Syria Act of 2016 … provides a strong foundation,” they wrote. “It would mandate the imposition of sanctions against terrorist organizations and foreign countries like Iran, “that threaten the peace or stability of Iraq or Syria.” They said such measures should also be extended to cover other crucial US allies in the region, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Bush and Ross did not call for ripping up the nuclear deal on Day 1 but instead favored the idea of isolating Iran and raising the costs of its continued intransigence.
“The incoming Trump administration should adopt a more expansive strategy toward Tehran … by addressing those vital issues beyond the scope of the (Iran nuclear) agreement, specifically Iran’s chronic regional meddling,” they said.
According to the two, a new campaign of pressure on Iran could help turn the tide.
“The US has no shortage of tools for affecting Iran’s behavior. A good one to start with (is to) aggressively enforce the existing sanctions architecture,” they wrote.
Among the important suggestions forwarded by the two is one relating to Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Al-Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
“The Trump administration can move quickly by pushing for enforcement of the UN travel ban imposed on key figures in the Iranian (military) leadership, like Soleimani, who has been pictured in Aleppo, Fallujah and near Mosul,” they said.
Lack of action, they said, has emboldened Iranian leaders to run amok and expand their footprint across the region “much to the worry of America’s traditional allies.”
They called for measures to crack down on Iran’s multiple ballistic missile launches and its continued shipments of arms to Yemen in violation of the UN arms embargo.
“Such behavior is in direct defiance of UN Resolution 2231, which enshrines the nuclear deal, and is an example of Iran’s lack of accountability. If Iran continues to violate the letter and the spirit of the deal, the US must be prepared to walk away from the agreement.”
They said the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control should not provide licenses to Boeing and Airbus “until Iran stops using Iran Air and other carriers to ferry weapons and personnel for the Assad regime and Hezbollah in Lebanon.”
The US, they said, should also use its leverage with the Iraqi government to restrict airspace used by Iran for destabilizing activities.
Bush and Ross called for the establishment of red lines for continued Iranian harassment of US Navy ships in the Arabian Gulf and and other nefarious activity.
“Providing new and more robust authority to the US Navy to respond to Iranian provocations would be a significant first step,” they said in an obvious reference to Iranian harassment of US Navy ships in the Arabian Gulf in recent days and months.