Opinion Is a hospital ship the missing piece in America's Iran strategy?
Iran and Venezuela are testing Biden with suspected weapons transfer
Two Iranian warships are steaming across the Atlantic, and putting the U.S. president in uncomfortable waters.Venezuelan ruler Nicolas Maduro joked that such a purchase was a “good idea.” But the Trump administration warned Caracas to abandon it, threatening in particular to eliminate any long-range missiles.
The Biden administration continues to prioritize reconciliation with Iran.
On Thursday, for example, the U.S. Treasury Department lifted sanctions on more than a dozen former officials involved in the National Iranian Oil Company, an entity that has repeatedly helped to fund the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its proxies. President Joe Biden’s efforts appear to repeat the logic of the Obama administration in believing that it could privilege the reformist faction within the Islamic Republic by demonstrating that a more moderate, compromising approach could bring Iran financial reward.
Sri Lanka braces for environmental disaster as ship sinks
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Authorities in Sri Lanka were trying to head off a potential environmental disaster Thursday as a fire-damaged container ship that had been carrying chemicals was sinking off of the country's main port. The Singapore-flagged MV X-Press Pearl started sinking Wednesday, a day after authorities extinguished fire that raged on the vessel for 12 days. Efforts to tow the ship into deeper waters away from the port in Colombo failed after the ship’s stern became submerged and rested on the seabed.
The Biden and Obama approach stands in sharp contrast with that of the Trump administration. The former administration believed that "" could compel Iranian concessions, if not spark regime change. George W. Bush's and Bill Clinton’s strategy was more a mix of the two: slapping Iran with a number of unilateral sanctions but, simultaneously, reaching out. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, for example, quietly the "dialogue of civilizations," while Bush more quietly dispatched officials and William Burns (now CIA director) to speak with Iranian officials.
While proponents of diplomacy often point to the continuation of Iranian malfeasance when the United States seeks punitive measures in order to prove conciliation to be a better strategy, the opposite can also be true. Consider that Iranits then-covert nuclear enrichment program and while reformists controlled the presidency and dominated parliament. In short, Iran’s continued nuclear challenge is evidence that neither side’s strategy has worked.
Iran sends warships to Atlantic amid Venezuela concerns
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An Iranian destroyer and support vessel are now sailing in the Atlantic Ocean in a rare mission far from the Islamic Republic, Iran's state TV reported on Thursday, without offering the vessels’ final destination. The trip by the new domestically built destroyer Sahand and the intelligence-gathering vessel Makran comes amid U.S. media reports, citing anonymous American officials, saying the ships were bound for Venezuela. The Associated Press could not immediately confirm the ships' destination.
The problem with both strategies is that they ignore the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Unlike the regular Iranian military that focuses on territorial defense, the IRGC’s mission is the defense of the revolution. That means the IRGC defends not only external enemies but also internal challenges. In 2007, then-IRGC chief Mohammad Ali Jafari reorganized the IRGC to focus more on crushing internal dissent than on facing threats on Iranian borders. He established IRGC units specific to every province in the country. In effect, they are the Praetorian Guard whose main job is to defend the supreme leader from the will of the people. In short, there can be no muddle through, gradual reform without first neutralizing the guards.
This need not mean military action.
While pundits and politicos often talk about Iranian hardliners and reformers in Iranian politics, seldom do they acknowledge that the guards are not homogeneous. Some enter the guards' circle in various youth programs and are subject to years of indoctrination. These guardsmen may become true believers who cannot differentiate between the guards' rhetoric and reality. Other Iranians simply join the guards for the privilege — better pay than conscript service, more subsidized goods, or greater university or employment opportunities. Even among true believers, there are fissures. Many guardsmen still suffer from injuries sustained during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War. Mujahedin al Khalq terrorism maimed others. Successive Iranian administrations, however, have failed to uphold even basic standards for veterans care.
Data recovered as ship with chemicals sinking off Sri Lanka
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Experts recovered the data recorder of a fire-ravaged ship carrying chemicals that is slowly sinking off Sri Lanka’s capital, as salvage crews stood by to head off a possible environmental disaster, officials said Sunday. The Singapore-flagged MV X-Press Pearl started sinking Wednesday, a day after authorities extinguished a fire that raged on the vessel for 12 days. Efforts to tow the ship into deeper waters away from the port in Colombo had failed after the ship’s stern became submerged and rested on the seabed.
Perhaps the missing piece for the U.S. is to reach out to disaffected guardsmen or those not committed to the regime’s ideological excesses. The U.S. Navy, for example, maintains two hospital ships — the USNS Mercy and the USNS Comfort. It often deploys one or the other to assist in disaster relief. A year ago, the Navy deployed the Comfort to New York City to treat COVID-19 patients. Perhaps if Biden truly wants to reach out to Iran and reinforce to Iranians that the U.S. is not their enemy, he could deploy a hospital ship to Dubai and offer free medical care for any IRGC veteran who wants it.
If IRGC veterans take the U.S. up on the offer, it would be both a propaganda and intelligence coup. On the other hand, if the regime refuses to allow IRGC veterans to access free medical care, it will highlight the regime’s own failures and increase dissent. Either way, it will chip away at the IRGC’s willingness and ability to repress the will of ordinary Iranians.
Albert Einstein is widely credited with the quip that insanity is doing the same action repeatedly but expecting different results each time. By that logic, policymakers’ refusal to recognize the ineffectiveness of both coercion and concession is madness. The U.S. needs a strategy not only to deter the IRCG but also to implode it.
Despite U.S. Concessions, the IAEA Can Take Tehran to Task | Opinion
The Iranian strategy in Vienna is obvious: wield the threat of nuclear escalation to extort tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief and win tacit permission to forge ahead on nuclear R&D.Grossi's announcement and the agency report come at a critical moment. The Biden administration is currently negotiating a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with Iran in Vienna. But, as American diplomats tout the necessity of a JCPOA return, the U.N. nuclear chief made it clear that the agreement is outdated. The agreement does not address Tehran's increased nuclear expertise or its development of advanced centrifuges.
Michael Rubin () is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential. He is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
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Iranian Presidential Candidate Says U.S. Needs to Return to Nuclear Deal for Better Relations With Country .
"They first need to go back to the (nuclear deal) that they withdrew from. If we see the process and more confidence is built, then we can talk about that," presidential candidate Abdolnasser Hemmati said.Former Iranian Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati spoke with the Associated Press about the possible relations between the U.S. and Iran, but said he had yet to see anything "serious" from U.S. President Joe Biden.