How America Can Counter Russia and Iran

    Michael McLaughlin

    Security, Middle East

    Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) meets with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, Iran November 1, 2017. Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS

    The dilemma for America is how to punish Iran while preventing Russia from reaping the benefits of the resulting rising oil prices.

    United States President Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) re-opens America’s gun ports for an economic broadside to punish Iran’s continued destabilizing activities throughout the region. However, without a unified effort with the European Union and America’s regional allies, there is the danger that Russia stands to gain from the geopolitical melee.

    The JCPOA’s primary flaw is it failed to rein in Iran’s destabilization of the region vis-à-vis its proxies, its ballistic missile program, and its cyber operations—all while rewarding such behavior through increased foreign direct investment. This guaranteed financial support prevented the United States from imposing economic consequences against the Islamic Republic and allowed the Ayatollah’s Revolutionary Guards Corps to operate across the region and the globe with impunity.

    However, Iran’s regime may have overreached. Waging regional proxy wars coupled with prolonged depressed oil prices has dampened Iran’s economy and exacerbated its currency crisis. Meanwhile, growing microeconomic hardship continues to foment unrest across the Islamic Republic.

    Labor strikes and anti-regime sentiment are boiling beneath a lid that has long been clamped down upon by the regime. But the more repressive the regime grows, the more vocal and visceral the protests become. Demonstrations in Mashad in December and January; protests in Karzun in May; and ongoing trucking strikes have pitted religious, working-class Iranians against the ruling clerics. With growing impudence, protesters now address the regime directly: “Be afraid, be afraid, for we’re standing together!” The false promise of the Islamic Revolution and the resulting economic crisis, rampant corruption, and endless interventionism abroad have emboldened the Iranian people.

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