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Time to turn up the heat on Iran

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US national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn
US national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn

BY ALI SAFAVI,

 

The Hill, 9 Febuary2017 - By testing their ballistic missiles in a provocative act last month, Iran’s ayatollahs also tested the resolve of the new U.S. president. National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s promise of swift action should violations continue has turned the Obama administration’s era of appeasement on its head, at least in spirit.

Given Tehran’s military saber-rattling, including a second missile launch this week and continued support for international terrorism, the time for action may come soon. There are a number of reasonable options for the Trump administration to turn up the heat without immediate, full-scale military engagement.

First, the U.S. should officially designate the regime’s terrorist arm, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG), as a foreign terrorist entity and ramp up targeted sanctions against it.

Not only is the IRGC, along with Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence, a crucial component in the regime’s crackdowns and human rights abuses at home, it functions as a regional terror production factory.

As Gen. Flynn acknowledged in his forceful denunciation of Iran’s destabilizing role in geopolitics, they have sown chaos throughout the Middle East by supporting the Houthis in Yemen, Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Shia militias in Iraq, and the Hezbollah in Lebanon, among others.

According to U.S. intelligence analysts and court rulings, the IRGC was directly involved in the bombings of the Jewish Community Center in Argentina and the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, as well as in the development and deployment of roadside bombs that killed hundreds of American soldiers in Iraq.

The IRGC is embedded in a strictly-managed kleptocracy aimed at enriching those in power at the expense of the Iranian population. Controlling an enormous business empire consisting of key national industries, including energy and real estate, the ICRG is reaping the benefits of the lifting of sanctions by the Obama administration.

By tightening capital flows and sanctioning key IRGC personnel, the Trump administration can diminish some of Iran’s greatest threats to regional stability. It should also work with regional partners to marginalize and evict the regime’s forces and militias from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and other countries in the Middle East.

Strategically speaking, however, applying sanctions and confronting the export of terror is not sufficient. To effectively undermine and confront the regime, Washington needs to target Tehran’s most fundamental vulnerability — domestic instability.

The main enemies of the theocratic regime are the Iranian people, who yearn for a democratic, representative and secular government. Brutally suppressed by the mullahs for decades, they have risen up a number of times, including in 2009, when millions poured onto the streets to protest the velayat-e faqih (absolute clerical rule)