Danielle Pletka: Trump's Mideast Policy Boosts Iran

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An Iranian military fighter plane flies past an oil tanker during naval manoeuvres in the Gulf and Sea of Oman on April 5, 2006. Danielle Pletka writes that the odds that an unpopular and unilateral American leader will be able to leverage Europe and Asia into restoring sanctions against Iran are nil. Fars News/reuters

This article first appeared on the American Enterprise Institute site.

Many of my colleagues have been providing unsolicited counsel to President-elect Donald Trump about Syria, Russia, Iran and the broader Middle East.

But much of this advice—tear up the Iran deal, use Russia and Assad to destroy ISIS— doesn't bear scrutiny, and not in the way you think.

Related : CIA Chief John Brennan Warns Trump Not to Rip Up Iran Nuclear Deal

Consider the options with me for a moment:

  • Russia is aligned with Iran to achieve Tehran's most important foreign policy goal, the retention of a puppet government in Syria. So, if the United States of Trump puts all its eggs in the Putin-anti-ISIS strategy, cui bono? Iran.
  • But, you counter, ISIS will be gone, and we have a separate Iran strategy. Not so fast, because....
  • Qatar, Saudi and the UAE aren't going to fade quietly from the anti-Assad scene and have already committed to continuing to support anti-Assad groups (support that Trump has told people he will end). So, the restore-Assad strategy will not work to full effect, in the sense that ISIS will continue to have a foothold.
  • But, say the Trump whisperers, the new president will tear up the Iran deal, which will please our Gulf allies and isolate Iran. But will it?
  • Obama has structured the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) to benefit Iran up front, with all the performance requirements in the out years. In other words, Iran has reaped the benefits but hasn't had to do much because the deal requires sustaining limits on nuclear activities for at least 10 years....
  • So Iran will no longer be bound by the JCPOA once the US walks away, but will sanctions be reinstated? Highly unlikely if Trump unilaterally rips up the deal. Cui bono? Iran.

Some will challenge my suggestion that Iran sanctions will be difficult to reinstate. But it took a quarter century to get those "crippling" sanctions. The odds that an unpopular and unilateral American leader will be able to leverage Europe and Asia into compliance are nil.

And by the way, there are plenty in Iran who will be delighted to see the JCPOA shredded. Does this make it a good deal? No, it's terrible and dangerous and has empowered Iran to pursue hegemonic aims in the Middle East. But the policies Mr. Trump has suggested he will pursue will only further benefit Iran.

There are better options, but they require supporting a different future in Syria, stepping up US involvement in the region, doing much more to constrain Iranian activity and otherwise repudiating the Obama legacy of retreat.

Will Mr. Trump change his mind? I hope so.

Danielle Pletka is senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

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