The last week presented a dramatic confrontation between two nations, one with nuclear power and the other hoping to have it or possibly possessing it. The commentariat was abuzz with the fear of war. Then within, it seemed, a day, the threat of war was over.
The Trump administration’s handling of the Ayatollah seemed the most effective since Ronald Reagan’s inauguration forced the first Ayatollah to release our hostages. The strategy was brilliant. It exposed for all the world to see Iran’s fear of America. It laid bare the Regime of Terror’s dread of an all-out confrontation with the United States. There is no greater blow you can deliver to a terrorist regime than to expose its weakness, and President Donald J. Trump did it with the world watching.
After the United States eliminated Iran’s four-decade-long architect of terror, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iranians reacted like they lost their most inspiring leader, the world was ready for massive attacks on U.S. interests and Israel. Instead, a missile attack disrupting sand formations reaffirmed that the age-old wisdom of not appeasing, but standing up to, bullies is always the right approach. It avoids war.
We have been coming to this point since Donald J. Trump, as a candidate, disavowed then-President Barack Obama’s agreement allowing Iran a path to becoming a nuclear power and giving it billions of dollars to help it.
Feed the people?
Buy the missiles they used to attack us?
Steal a lot for the billionaire Ayatollah and the millionaire mullahs?
The answers, if they are not obvious, will be supplied at the end.
As soon as President Trump disavowed the agreement and ended the payoff, the Regime of Terror began testing us, slowly and carefully. Interfering with allied shipping, detaining allied seamen, firing on targets in Iraq and then taking out a U.S. drone. The latter presented a test.
Although no one died, it was an attack on American military equipment and many wanted to respond militarily. But President Trump decided it would be disproportionate to react to an attack that cost no lives by launching one that was likely to kill innocent Iranians. It was, of course, criticized, but if you know him or the basics of negotiation, you could see it was a set-up for a later move if necessary. And so it was.
The Ayatollah still did not have his answer as to President Trump’s trigger point. He knew he had to take it up another level to see just how far he could go. So with his butcher Soleimani, he created unrest in Iraq and then stormed the American embassy. They wanted to see just how far they could push us. By not taking over the embassy, as they did 40 years ago, they were calculating, trying to expose American weakness.
However, they were playing right into President Trump’s hands. Iran had crossed a red line and a response was necessary, a very carefully chosen one with an objective. And in the response would be a clear sign of America’s strategy.
President Trump had many options. He could have destroyed Iran’s navy, which would have solved a big shipping problem in the region and deprived it of enormous ransoms. He could have hit as many nuclear facilities as possible to set that program back another five or 10 years. All of that would be of assistance if we found ourselves engaged in war there in this decade. He could have hit numerous targets of critical economic infrastructure that would have done even more damage to an already crumbling economy.
Instead, the president chose one person, the second most important in Iraq and the terrorist with the most blood on his hands. He had the charismatic recruiting capacity and was a legendary architect of terror. If Iran is the Regime of Terror, Soleimani was the Prince of Terror. The president also chose the hardest hardliner of them all who would normally counsel military or terrorist action rather than negotiation. In that choice, President Trump gave Iran a lot to think about and laid out as clear a strategy as we ever have had with the regime.
President Trump immediately increased the already crushing sanctions and will do so again if there is any further misbehavior short of the loss of human life. The Iranian economy is crumbling, headed toward life support. The anti-government demonstrations are increasing and this will, in time, be enough to crush them. But it is now clear if lives are lost or U.S. territory attacked then the reaction will be major-to-catastrophic, depending on the circumstances.
President Trump has set forth a new set of rules. His objective is to force a behavior change by the Regime of Terror. Or so says our very shrewd secretary of state. But it is also true that the fastest change would be regime change. The administration, of course, does not support it, but many of us see it as the only realistic end. One way or the other, this administration is standing up for freedom for the Iranian people.
– This article was first published on Real Clear Politics and shared here.