The year 2020 looks to be a watershed for American power and prestige in the world. In the coming months, both North Korea and China will get a better idea of how far they can push the U.S., be it in different strategic venues: nuclear for Pyongyang’s Kim Jong-un, and primarily economic (for the time being) for Beijing’s Xi Jinping.
In the Middle East, however, the answers regarding the nerve of the world’s lone superpower, and consequently the balance of power between Islamic forces, appear to be just around the corner. Will President Donald Trump allow Iran to gain a permanent upper hand in Iraq, thus signaling conclusive American defeat in the war there begun in 2003? Will we allow that dangerous regime to gain regional dominance over its rivals such as Saudi Arabia, whose government, flawed as it is, is far friendlier to the U.S.?
Or will the president react to the recent aggression against U.S. personnel by Tehran’s proxies in Iraq by setting into motion a strategy that will ultimately result in the popular overthrow of Iran’s four-decades-old Islamofascist regime? A result somewhere in the middle seems near to impossible; America’s weakness is either going to be badly exposed for allies and enemies alike to behold, or the mullahs are going to be thwarted to an extent difficult for them to survive.
Supreme ruler Ayatollah Khamenei and the deceptively pleasant-seeming President Hassan Rouhani apparently believe, with little fear, that the solution to Trump’s policy of economic warfare against Iran, in pursuit of a new, better nuclear deal, is to push back hard. In reaction to U.S. airstrikes on Tehran-backed Kataeb Hezbollah militants within Iraq on Sunday, thousands of Iranian-directed militiamen and their supporters invaded the U.S.-controlled Green Zone in Baghdad on Tuesday and burned and smashed parts of the U.S. embassy, triggering unpleasant memories of President Jimmy Carter’s Iran hostage crisis.
Those militants are suspected of being behind a missile strike on the northern Iraq city of Kirkuk last week, which killed a U.S. contractor. Marines were sent from Kuwait to reinforce the embassy, and Trump on Tuesday ordered 750 troops from the 82nd Airborne to Kuwait and placed an additional 4,000 on standby status for possible future deployment. Some 14,000 of our troops have already been sent to the region during the last six months.
“Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many,” Trump tweeted. “We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible.”
But ongoing crisis management is not the solution. Tehran, with its persistent nuclear weapons ambition, must be dealt a death blow of one kind or another, and the current unfolding crisis may be the best opportunity for the U.S. to do so.
Ripe For Regime Change
Rouhani himself has admitted his country, under Trump’s sanctions, is suffering its worst economic calamity since the 1979 revolution that brought the notorious Ayatollah Khomeini into power. And in November, aggressive demonstrating in more than 100 Iranian cities and towns was sparked by government-engineered increases in gasoline prices, with protesters publicly blaming the ruling regime. The government responded by killing hundreds and injuring and detaining thousands more.
In the summer of 2009, the first year of his presidency, Barack Obama stood pat as far more localized and less-potent protests raged within Iran. He was intent on not being the president who liberated Iran but on negotiating a nuclear deal, and indeed he got just that. Trump is said to have a strong disinclination to embark on new entanglements against our foes in the Middle East, fearful of suffering repeats of the unsatisfactory conclusions of President George W. Bush’s initiatives in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But regime change in Iran requires not troops, but trolling on the part of the U.S. We can battle the mullahs by providing both moral and material support to the freedom fighters within Iran, and allying ourselves with their countrymen living throughout the free world, represented by organizations such as the National Council of Resistance of Iran.
Despite Trump’s opposition to Bush’s Iraq war, Trump could actually fulfill the 43rd president’s solemn call to light “a fire in the minds of men,” as he put it in his second inaugural address a decade a half ago this month.
“It warms those who feel its power,” Bush said, and “burns those who fight its progress; and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world.”
It might just smoke the ayatollah out of power in Tehran in 2020, differently than Trump’s predecessor imagined. That is if the 45th president and famed casino builder uses the confrontation with Iran today to play his cards deftly enough.
— Written by Thomas McArdle
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