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Iranian political theorist Reza Parchizadeh discusses the latest Iranian posturing and how the Trump administration should respond to it.









Photo Credit: Channel 2 News

The received wisdom about the Islamist regime in Iran will have us believe that it will back off when under foreign pressure and charge forward when free from external restraint. This time it is going to be very different.

The regime has spread itself so thin and is under so much internal pressure that it will implode if it takes only one small step back. And they are completely aware of that fact. Therefore, despite the Trump administration’s tightening the noose around the Islamist regime’s neck, the regime is least likely to back off. Its recent missile tests and military exercise send a clear a message in that regard. As such, this administration will have no other choice but to escalate – which I can perceive it already doing – and eventually engage.

 

The question I would like to pose at this point is whether or not Trump’s administration has already considered Phase 2 of that scenario. If the Islamist regime falters or falls as a consequence of an American Coalition engagement, and if there is no solid plan to maintain order and stability when it happens, Iran will only metamorphose from one kind of security threat into another.

The so-called “failed states” of Iraq, Libya and Syria did not simply go away. Far from it, they lingered and their ghosts roam the globe and keep haunting the world. As it happens, Iran is no stranger to the hazards of a “power vacuum.” The incumbent Islamists took over as a consequence of the vacuum of power that was created during the revolution of 1979. Therefore, I’m suggesting that we must plan ahead and think of a viable “replacement,” albeit temporary and transitional, before we engage.

Winning the people’s hearts and minds can also give us a good setoff, as most Iranians are already antagonized by the regime’s inhumane and harsh treatment. Bibi realized that and sent a calculated and cordial message to Iranians, as a result of which he is now well-liked by many. Trump’s administration would be wise to do the same on a regular basis; i.e. to engage with the Iranian people before it does so with the Islamist regime.

Iranians hunger for Western-style secularism and democracy, as they demonstrated it in the 1999 student protests and again during the 2009 mass protests against the regime where they clearly asked for President Obama’s help. Indeed, the people of Iran have been calling for democracy for a long time now. But the world would choose to listen to the regime that was oppressing them instead. As such, the promise of democracy from America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, will reassure Iranians and alleviate their anticipated anguish.

In the end, I cannot overstate the importance of protecting the security of the region, especially that of Israel and Saudi Arabia, when things are set in motion towards Iran. Hezbollah is likely to retaliate against Israel and ISIS/Houthis against Saudi Arabia. Syria, Iraq and Yemen are the keys. They have always been. Therefore, I suggest the Syrian/Iraqi and Yemeni theaters be given priority for any engagement over the Persian Gulf theater. A calculated push for a “rollback” will reduce the cost of engagement, both human and material. Hopefully, this will be the war to end all wars, at least for the foreseeable future.