Close your eyes and imagine for a moment you are the leader of the free world.
After countless years of sanctions, negotiations, more sanctions, more negotiations, and issuing calls for restraint to your more fervent allies, you wake up one morning and discover that, the Islamic Republic of Iran, a theocratic terror-sponsor with direct responsibility for unleashing three decades of terroristic murder against American citizens, is now a nuclear-armed power.
Now is not the time for dwelling on how you ignored the warning that Iran could “breakout” to a nuclear weapon within a month to two weeks. There’s no sense dwelling on how your Secretary of State dismissed Israeli warnings as ‘fear tactics,” while you continued to pursue negotiations with Iranian President Rouhani, who personally orchestrated the rope-a-dope tactics that let Iran slide across the finish line to nuclear weaponry.
No, the question facing you as you review satellite photos of dozens of Iranian nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles paraded before crowds screaming “Death to America” is… now what?
It will make sense to take stock of what options you have available to you. You will call around to your regional allies. Primarily, you’ll be getting busy signals, since most of them will be on the phone with Russia, discussing leaving the U.S. umbrella for the warm glow of a Russian-made nuclear reactor. You can’t hug your children with nuclear arms, but Russia will gladly hug your former allies with them. If your allies do bother to answer your calls, it will be to remind you that while they were under a covert Iranian assault, you didn’t lift a finger to help them, preferring instead to hold yet another gabfest with Iran. Those that don’t run to Moscow may make nice with the Iranians themselves.
The same foreign policy “specialists” who urged you to “engage” Iran, and to strike a “grand bargain,” will be eager to advise you to try a strategy of containment. In fact, some were already banging that drum before you’d even given up hope of talking Iran out of its nuclear ambitions.
But you’ve already failed to contain a non-nuclear Iran, so there’s little value in taking calls from those people.
Cooperation on sanctions in Europe is likely to fall apart rapidly, eliminating the leverage they provide over a crippled Iranian economy. Many in Europe were never enamored of sanctions to begin with, and there were plenty of sanction violations, even before Iran possessed the power to seriously threaten those conducting economic warfare against it.
Expect a series of tests from the Iranians. Already feeling their oats, they are likely to step up pressure in the Gulf, doubling down on subversion in Bahrain, and in other GCC states. Threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, once wrongly scoffed at as an idle fear, now carry with them the threat of nuclear escalation if the U.S. attempts to use its military might to reverse the situation. The game for the Iranians will be “what’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is mine,” as they seek regional hegemony. Each series of Iranian provocations will roil the oil market, exactly as intended, as Iran seeks to raise prices to a level that can sustain it financially (which is about $150/barrel).
Outside the Middle East, it will be necessary to stop ignoring aggressive Iranian activities in Central and South America, and begin to take seriously the risk of IRGC and Hezbollah activities in the U.S. Homeland as well. Reports of Iranian missiles bases in Venezuela, which you once disregarded, now will keep you up at night.
You’ll have no choice but to pass the Shield Act, and harden the American electric grid as fast as possible. The one punch knockout capability of an EMP strike against America may be far too attractive to the ayatollahs otherwise.
Your instincts will be to back off Iran, and hope to limit the level of mischief they can cause, but this is the exact wrong approach. Showing weakness will encourage more belligerence (as it has since 1979). Instead adopt a policy of selective confrontation as President Ronald Reagan did against another nuclear adversary. Do not be afraid to call out the Islamic Republic as the “Evil Empire” it is, to support its dissidents, and challenge it for its support for terrorism. Stress its failed and corrupt policies when you speak directly to the Iranian people, many of whom long to be free. The Islamic Republic will bolster and threaten with its newly acquired nuclear trump card, but you must not buckle before such saber-rattling.
You must be vigilant against any attempt by Tehran to pass its nuclear arsenal off to Hezbollah, and Iran must be made to understand that no “plausible deniability” will spare it from destruction in the event that it does so. After years of degrading America’s nuclear deterrent, this will require both a real overhaul of U.S. nuclear weapons, as well as reversing the (accurate) international perception of America’s unwillingness to use force since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
You’ll find yourself presiding over an America which has never been more at risk, and your only valid option will be a dramatic shift to reverse every foreign policy you undertook in your previous presiding years to prevent a catastrophe. And even this dim future presumes the Iranian leadership does not attempt to make good on its genocidal eschatology and launch nuclear terror the moment it becomes feasible.
Open your eyes now.
If you’re still the leader of the free world, then there isn’t any more time to waste. You’ll need every available tool if you hope to stop Iran before it acquires nuclear weapons. No matter what hard choices have to be made to prevent the bomb, they will appear inconsequential when compared to the struggle which will begin if the Iranian regime succeeds.
Originally published at https://www.familysecuritymatters.org/publications/detail/okay-so-youve-let-iran-get-the-bomb-a-guide-to-whats-next?f=puball
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