Former President Barack Obama’s foreign policy was a lot of tough talk, but no action.
President Trump has promised to take a hard line against the world’s aggressors, and he is about to be tested.
The Trump administration put Iran “on notice” this week after the regime fired a ballistic missile test on Sunday. There are now reports from the Wall Street Journal and NBC News that the White House will impose new sanctions on dozens of Iranian entities as a result of the test. The sanction announcement may come as soon as Friday.
These actions aren’t unprecedented.
Last year, Mr. Obama imposed a dozen sanctions on Iran after it fired two ballistic missile tests in 2015, one in October and a second in November. The scenario was much the same as what Mr. Trump is confronted with — Iran claimed the launches weren’t in violation of United Nations law and were strictly for defense purposes, while the international community largely disagreed.
Mr. Obama’s sanctions obviously didn’t work. Iran only became more emboldened.
Iranian naval forces harassed U.S. naval ships in the Persian Gulf 35 times last year, according to the Pentagon. In the first half of 2016, the number of “unsafe and unprofessional” clashes provoked by Iran were about double the number from the same period in 2015.
Now, during the Trump administration, Iran has tested yet another ballistic missile and has increased its support for militant groups in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
There’s a possibility Mr. Trump’s proposed sanctions won’t work. And if that’s the case, the Trump administration is going to need to take further steps against Iran or risk falling into Mr. Obama’s foreign policy.
Sen. Dan Sullivan has proposed not tearing up the Iran nuclear deal, but instead letting it fail on its own through strict enforcement. Iran has exceeded its heavy water limits, which is strictly defined in the deal, and Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani has violated his travel ban by visiting Syria and Russia.
“[Trump] could give all the parties to the agreement 60 days to remedy the situation,” Mr. Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska wrote in The Washington Post. “If they fail to do so, [Trump] should take the next step, pursuant to the agreement: Reapply sanctions against Iran.”
Now, these would be unilateral sanctions as there’s no guarantee the other five nations in the agreement would follow, but the U.S. is the biggest and greatest economy in the world, which could level a blow to the Iranian regime.
Mr. Sullivan’s recommendations should be pursued no matter what course of action Mr. Trump decides.
In addition to strictly enforcing the nuclear deal and imposing sanctions related to Iran’s missile building, there are other steps Mr. Trump could take that wouldn’t escalate the Iran situation into an all-out war.
The U.S. could provide more support to Iran’s enemies in the region, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Yemen. It also could have some military action prepared for the next time Iran decides to provoke our naval ships.
Mr. Trump has many different levers he can pull to take a harder line against the Iranian regime — the key is, he must pull them. After Mr. Obama’s pronounced “red-line” in Syria, the world has laughed at the U.S.’s “tough talk” and have continued to push. Mr. Trump needs to prove he will act.