Addressing Iranian Threats to U.S. National Security

(John Hay Initiative-Washington Institute for Near East Policy) Michael Singh - When the next president enters office, Iran will be a nuclear-weapons threshold state operating more than 5,000 centrifuges, with more than 14,000 additional ones at hand but deactivated. It will be openly engaged in research and development on advanced centrifuges. Its heavy water reactor and its underground second enrichment facility will both be modified but otherwise intact and in use. Iran will also possess a large, sophisticated ballistic missile arsenal. Some may regard these developments as an acceptable price for deferring a long-running confrontation between Tehran and Washington over Iran's nuclear ambitions. But the truth is that Iran poses a challenge to vital U.S. interests in the Middle East: nonproliferation, counterterrorism, the freedom of navigation in key waterways such as the Strait of Hormuz, cyber security, and others. As part of a broader comprehensive strategy to rebuild American alliances, advance U.S. interests, and improve stability and security in the region, the next Administration should devise an Iran policy focused on re-establishing American deterrence, strengthening constraints on Tehran's nuclear program, countering Iranian efforts to project power regionally, and increasing pressure on the regime. Iran's security strategy hinges on projecting power well beyond its borders while seeking to create an inhospitable security environment for the U.S. and its allies. To advance this strategy, Iran has cultivated impressive asymmetric capabilities to compensate for its conventional military weakness, primarily by building, training, arming, and funding proxies and allies. Since Iran shows no sign of reconsidering its regional interests or strategy for advancing them, its destabilizing activities are likely to increase rather than wane. The U.S. and its allies must impose costs on Iran for its destabilizing regional activities. The next President should also seek effective ways to support human rights in Iran, and to demonstrate American sympathy with political reformers. This should be done in recognition that a true resolution of international concerns with Iranian policy is likely only to follow a broader political shift within Iran itself, albeit one that only Iranians can bring about. The writer is managing director at The Washington Institute.

2016-01-22 00:00:00

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