Ending months of suspense, the White House today announced President Donald Trump’s new Iran strategy which focuses on neutralising Tehran’s alleged destabilising influence in the region, but stops short of killing a landmark nuclear deal. Developed in consultation with President Trump’s national security team, the new strategy is the culmination of nine months of deliberation with Congress and US allies on how to best protect American security, the White House said. Trump is scheduled to address the nation on the new Iran strategy later tonight. “Most importantly, we will deny the Iranian regime all paths to a nuclear weapon,” the White House said. Highlighting the core elements of the strategy, it said the US will revitalise its traditional alliances and regional partnerships as bulwarks against Iranian subversion and restore a more stable balance of power in the region. “We will work to deny the Iranian regime – and especially the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – funding for its malign activities…We will counter threats to the US and our allies from ballistic missiles and other asymmetric weapons,” the White House said.
The new strategy does not declare the IRGC a terrorist organisation, but says the US will rally the global community to condemn the IRGC’s gross violations of human rights and its unjust detention of American citizens and other foreigners.
According to the White House, the Iranian regime’s activities severely undercut whatever positive contributions to “regional and international peace and security” the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) sought to achieve. Even with regard to JCPOA itself, the Iranian regime has displayed a disturbing pattern of behaviour, seeking to exploit loopholes and test the international community’s resolve, alleged the Trump Administration. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as Iran nuclear deal, was signed by Iran and 5+1 group of countries (Britain, China, France, Russia, the US and Germany) in 2015 under which Iran agreed to freeze its nuclear programme for 15 years in exchange for sanctions relief.
Noting that Iranian military leaders have stated publicly that they will refuse to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspections of their military sites, the White House said that these statements fly in the face of Iran’s commitments under JCPOA and the Additional Protocol.
“Not long ago these same organisations hid nuclear facilities on military sites. This behaviour cannot be tolerated; the deal must be strictly enforced, and the IAEA must fully utilise its inspection authorities,” it said. Underscoring the need for a comprehensive strategy, the White House alleged that the previous administration’s myopic focus on Iran’s nuclear programme to the exclusion of the regime’s many other malign activities allowed Iran’s influence in the region to reach a high-water mark.
Over the last decade and a half, the US policy has also consistently prioritised the immediate threat of Sunni extremist groups over the longer-term threat of Iranian-backed militancy, it said. In doing so, the United States has neglected Iran’s steady expansion of proxy forces and terrorist networks aimed at keeping its neighbours weak and unstable in hopes of dominating the greater Middle East, the White House rued. “The Trump administration will not repeat these mistakes,” the White House said. The Trump administration will accomplish these objectives through a strategy that neutralises and counters Iranian threats, particularly those posed by the IRGC.
Alleging that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the IRGC have pursued a steady policy of spreading a revolutionary ideology aimed at undermining the international system and many states by force and subversion, the White House said that under Khamenei, Iran exports violence, destabilises its neighbours, and sponsors terrorism abroad.
The reckless behaviour of the Iranian regime, and the IRGC in particular, poses one of the most dangerous threats to the interests of the US and to regional stability, it claimed. It said the Iranian regime has taken advantage of regional conflicts and instability to aggressively expand its regional influence and threaten its neighbours with little domestic or international cost for its actions.
According to the White House, the full range of the Iranian regime’s malign activities extends well beyond the nuclear threat it poses, including ballistic missile development and proliferation; material and financial support for terrorism and extremism; support for the Assad regime’s atrocities against the Syrian people; and hostility to Israel.
It also includes consistently threatening freedom of navigation, especially in the Persian Gulf; cyber-attacks against the US, Israel, and America’s other allies and partners in the Middle East; grievous human rights abuses; and arbitrary detention of foreigners, including United States citizens, on specious charges and without due process. Countering IRGC would be one of the key element of this new strategy.
The White House said American partners in the international community agree with the US that the IRGC’s reckless behaviour threatens international peace and security. “For all these reasons, we want to work with our partners to constrain this dangerous organisation,” it said.