The Trump administration's decision to put Iran "on notice" for its provocative ballistic missile test and to subsequently slap new sanctions on individuals and entities affiliated with its missile program was a positive break from the previous administration's policy of ignoring Iran's belligerent behavior while showering it with concessions.
The measure was welcomed by the critics of the failed appeasement policy toward Iran in Capitol Hill and across the world.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., called the announcement "a new day in U.S.-Iran relations," stressing that it's past time to undertake a "coordinated, multi-faceted effort to push back against a range of illicit Iranian behavior."
Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., ranking member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, welcomed the new round of sanctions and underlined the need for the United States and its allies to deal with Iran's destabilizing behavior around the world.
Mohammad Mohaddessin, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the exiled opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran, called the measure "a positive step" in confronting an illegitimate and terrorist dictatorship, and stressed the need to impose total sanctions on Iranian entities involved in suppression, terrorism and fundamentalism.
Proponents of rapprochement also reacted to Trump's tougher stance against Iran. In order to prevent the unraveling of their interests, however, they are driving their point by drawing dangerous conclusions through a narrative based on misrepresenting the facts of Obama's tried-and-failed playbook.
Organizations like NIAC, an Iran lobby deeply tied to Tehran, suggest that communication channels created between the Obama administration and Iran paved the way for a nuclear deal that prevented a war with the country and also facilitated the release of ten U.S. sailors captured by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) in early 2016, both false assumptions.
The former is a flawed deal that has only made the Iranian regime a more hostile state by legitimizing its nuclear program and giving it billions of dollars to squander on its violent agenda in Syria and elsewhere, while the latter was an opportunity that the IRGC seized upon to humiliate the U.S.
Swedish-Iranian expat Trita Parsi refers to the release of U.S. hostages as another achievement of open dialog with Iran, referring to the Obama administration's $1.7 billion ransom, which drove the mullahs into turning hostage-taking into a lucrative business.
Another example is former Obama advisor Philip Gordon's op-ed in The New York Times, in which he claims that under the previous administration, "the United States made significant efforts to contain Iran."
However, in the same piece, Gordon admits that the nuclear pact has failed to address Iran's ballistic missile program. He also implicitly confesses that Iran's Shiite proxies in Iraq, which grew in size after Obama's hasty retreat from the country, are a potential threat for U.S. troops in the region.
This is not exactly what you would call containment.
Both writers base their argument that Trump should continue to appease Iran on the presumption that a firm stance toward Tehran will lead the U.S. to a military confrontation, or "an embarrassing retreat," as Gordon likes to put it.
But the U.S. doesn't need to go to war with the Iranian regime to contain it. There is already an organized Iranian resistance movement, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK/PMOI), which is quite capable of doing so and has strong bipartisan support among U.S. lawmakers and politicians.
Backers of diplomatic capitulation to Iran have constantly tried to discredit the MEK in order to conclude that the only solution to mend fences with Iran is to seek moderates within the regime, a proven hoax and myth and an empty goal that will only help keep the leading state sponsor of terrorism in power.
If the past is any indication, appeasing regimes that have no respect for universal democratic values is a recipe for disaster, yielding short-term jubilation at the expense of long-term insecurity.
Thanks in large part to the Obama administration's kid-glove treatment of Iran, the Middle East is already a hotbed of chaos and extremism, a powder keg that can only be defused by a serious change in policy. That change should be to stand with the Iranian people in their plight and struggle for freedom and regime change, a crucial step toward promoting peace in the Middle East and across the globe.
Amir Basiri (@amir_bas) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is an Iranian human rights activist.
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