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Iran: You Want to Change What?

Iran: You Want to Change What?

Yesterday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave us a hint of what Washington’s policy towards Iran might look like now that Trump has pulled the US out of the nuclear deal. A few observations from fellow Signalista Leon Levy:


The list of demands was formidable: Stop funding Houthi rebels in Yemen. Leave Syria. Cease threatening Israel. Halt all enrichment of uranium. The only thing missing was a demand for Tehran to acknowledge it heard “Yanny” instead of “Laurel.”

But there are a few takeaways worth mulling. First, if the administration wants to present a strong challenge to Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East, it will have to find a way to do so that doesn’t clash with Trump’s pledges to bring US troops and dollars home from a region that most of his core constituents want no part of.

Second, Pompeo’s speech skirted a, maybe the, critical question: Does Washington want to force the current Iranian regime to change course, or does it want the country to change regime? Different objectives require different strategies.

Third, there was little sympathy for America’s European friends. After acknowledging that Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran deal “will pose financial and economic difficulties for a number of our friends,” Pompeo then, in so many words, warned that the US has every intention of imposing those financial and economic difficulties, friendships be damned. As European Council President Donald Tusk bitterly tweeted last week: “with friends like that who needs enemies?” Indeed.

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Back in 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump presented his vision for an "America First" foreign policy, which symbolized a radical departure from the US' longtime approach to international politics and diplomacy.

In electing Donald Trump, a political outsider, to the top job, American voters essentially gave him a mandate to follow through on these promises. So, has he?

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"A continuing rape of our country."

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In an op-ed titled "Iran Arms Embargo Reckoning," the Wall Street Journal editorial board argues that ending the UN arms embargo on Iran was a major flaw of the 2015 nuclear deal and questions whether Biden could do anything to contain Iran at this point. Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group's Henry Rome take out the Red Pen to explain why this discussion misrepresents the importance of the embargo and the consequences for its expiration.

So, the US presidential election is now just days away, and today's selection is focusing on a specific aspect of foreign policy that will certainly change depending on who wins in the presidential contest—namely America's approach to Iran.

You've heard me talk before about the many similarities between Trump and Biden on some international policies, like on China or on Afghanistan. But Iran is definitely not one of those. Trump hated the JCPOA, the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal, put together under the Obama administration, and he walked away from it unilaterally. Joe Biden, if he were to become president, would try to bring it back.

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Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, US President George W. Bush demanded that Afghanistan's Taliban government surrender Osama bin Laden and end support for al-Qaeda. The Taliban refused.

On October 7, US bombs began falling on Taliban forces. NATO allies quickly pledged support for the US, and US boots hit the ground in Afghanistan two weeks later.

Thus began a war, now the longest in US history, that has killed more than 3,500 coalition soldiers and 110,000 Afghans. It has cost the American taxpayer nearly $3 trillion. US allies have also made human and material sacrifices.

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