Trump’s Speech On Iran: January 8, 2020-Did Iran Blink?

By

Leonard Zwelling

Emerging from the heavenly light in the White House , President Trump descended from his throne to let us know what he is going to do about the perennial mischief-maker in the Middle East, Iran. He was surrounded by Holy Hosts wearing dark suits and uniforms with battle ribbons. The scene was surreal, but the message was down to earth.

The president started by stating, even before greeting the gathered masses and the TV audience, that Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. This first sentence is key. Iran has restarted its nuclear enrichment program and is clearly on track to build nuclear weapons. For America to prevent this would take a massive effort by either negotiators within the State Department or troops under the aegis of the Secretary of Defense. It has been an Iranian goal to get nuclear weapons so that it can play with the big kids. Mr. Trump has made it clear that this will not happen on his watch. The first sentence of the speech alone threw down the gauntlet to Iran. Mr. Trump basically said to the Iranian leadership, “my way or the highway.” The highway is more war.

Mr. Trump went on to make it very clear that he wants regime change in Iran and that the neocons still have the ear of the president, meaning Pence and Pompeo. The good news is that Mr. Trump has given the ayatollahs an opening. If they stop the mischief now, there is a road to peace with America. If they continue to wage war in the region or strive for a nuclear weapon, the conflict with the United States and its military will continue. Mr. Trump is also demanding more out of NATO with regard to the leadership of Europe putting pressure on Iran and he expects the Russians and the Chinese to talk some sense into the Iranians. That means suspending their backing of the now dead Iranian nuclear deal.

While I thought Mr. Trump’s speech hit the right tone, he was mighty short on specifics with regard to what he wants of Iran, Iraq and the entire Middle East.

Nonetheless, this could be a Cuban Missile Crisis moment. Iran may have blinked as did the Soviets in 1962 to avoid all out war.

Here is what has to happen to get this to come out right.

First, Mr. Trump should restart talks with the Iranian leadership toward ending the nuclear program in Iran in exchange for lifting sanctions. The lives of ordinary Iranians are being made worse by the American sanctions. The Iranian leadership owes it to its people to try to find a way out.

Second, there needs to be massive cultural outreach to the Iranian people from the United States to try to convince them that we are not the enemy. We cannot be talking about destroying sites in Iran that are like the Statue of Liberty is to us.

Third, covertly, America will have to find the elements for freedom that must be alive and well in Iran for there are only three options for the Iranian government.

It can continue with the Islamic Republic where the mullahs rule, they strive for a nuclear weapon and they will be in a perpetual state of military and economic conflict with the west. Bad choice, but operational now.

There could be a violent revolution that topples the current regime, but as long as the Republican Guard is controlled by the mullahs, that is not likely. There will be no Lexington and Concord nor Bastille moment in Tehran.

Or, there can be a gradual loosening of the Islamic hold on the country that eventually leads to democracy because that’s what the people want. This is the toughest to implement, but best for America.

We need to be encouraging number three while staying strong against the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran by negotiating for a short-term truce based on relief from the crippling sanctions.

It may also prove necessary for the United States to stay in the region to keep ISIS suppressed (something the Iranians want as well) and to discourage the proxy wars Iran is fighting in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and around the Gulf.

Mr. Trump’s speech was both tough and measured. Now he needs to fill in the blanks. What does he propose to do next? Or will Iran make the next move? Maybe they already have by blinking. After all, they must have had pretty bad aim when they sent rockets into American bases and managed to kill no one. The more likely scenario is that Iran warned Iraq the missiles were coming and Iraq told us and our troops were moved to hardened sites.

OK. Will Mr. Trump allow Iran to call a stalemate and start negotiations. Or is the missile barrage just Iran’s first answer. Time will tell.

Leonard Zwelling