This policy disadvantage is a bit of a work in progress, but the file contains a basic shell for an argument that arms sales to the Gulf region are needed to deter Iran. The extensive bibliography help get you started finishing the file.
What’s going on?
Iran has breached its enrichment limits under the nuclear deal. Trump and Iran are both threatening war. What’s going on? Read this 300 word summary from the BBC.
Speaking and debating issues —
Policy — Politics — Will a loss of conservative support cause Trump to “Wage the Dog” and attack Iran? Will a weakened President be able to hold off Pompeo and Bolton?
Extemp — Should the US revoke its sanctions on Iran? Should the US attack Iran? What are the consequences of a war in Iran? Should Trump re-negotiate a new nuclear deal with Iran?
How the US can de-escalate the conflict —
The U.S. Should Suspend Recent Sanctions to Provide Space for Diplomacy
The U.S. should suspend sanctions imposed after its withdrawal from the nuclear accord with Iran in May 2018 to provide space for de-escalation and assurance that it is serious about pursuing and adhering to a negotiated solution.
Iran Should Return to Full Compliance with the Nuclear Accord
Iran’s recent decision to cease adherence with aspects of the July 2015 nuclear deal in response to U.S. sanctions feeds into a counterproductive escalatory cycle and could lead to an irreversible collapse of the agreement. Iran should welcome the suspension of U.S. sanctions by returning to full compliance with the nuclear deal.
The U.S. and Iran Should Pursue a Prisoner Swap
Iran has unjustly imprisoned at least five American citizens and dual nationals. According to publicized reports, at least a dozen Iranians are in custody in the U.S. on sanctions violation charges. Iran has publicly and privately offered to arrange a swap of American and Iranian prisoners held in each country’s jails. The Trump administration should pursue this overture and view it as the low-hanging fruit for negotiations that can build confidence for broader diplomacy.
Europe Must Take More Serious Steps to Address Challenges in Meeting Its Sanctions Relief Obligations
Due to U.S. extraterritorial sanctions, Europe has not been able to satisfy its obligations under the nuclear deal to ensure legitimate trade with Iran. To its credit, Europe’s development of a special financial mechanism to facilitate legitimate trade with Iran, known as INSTEX, is a constructive first step forward. Europe must now urgently take all necessary actions to ensure INSTEX is utilized to enable the trade and economic benefits promised under the nuclear deal.
The U.S. and Iran Must Reestablish Communication Channels
The U.S. and Iran should reestablish a permanent and direct communication channel with Iran to de-escalate crises, such as the downing of the U.S. drone and the oil tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman. Absent a dedicated channel for deconfliction and deescalation, as existed under the previous administration, the chances of disaster remain far too high.
The U.S. Should Appoint a Credible and Empowered Iran Envoy
To signal U.S. seriousness about negotiations and to facilitate the process, a new Iran envoy with the ear of the President and experience in diplomatically engaging Iran is needed. As long as John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are viewed as leading the administration’s Iran policy, concerns that the U.S. seeks regime change and military action – and is not serious about a negotiated solution – will undermine any hopes for talks.
Pursue an Agreement to Avoid Confrontations in the Persian Gulf
The U.S. and Iran came dangerously close to war following several incidents in the Persian Gulf and unverified accusations leveled by both sides. To avoid similar confrontations in the future, the two sides should negotiate an “incidents at sea” agreement to avoid collisions between their naval and air forces operating in close proximity.
U.S. Congress Should Pass Legislation to Prevent War
Congress was not consulted when President Trump came just a few minutes away from attacking Iran, which could have dragged the U.S. into a major regional conflict far more damaging than the Iraq war. Congress must assert its war-powers authority and uphold its constitutional duty as a coequal branch of government by passing legislation to ensure the administration cannot start an illegal and disastrous war with Iran.
How to Prevent a War with Iran. To start, the United States and Iran are locked into stiff negotiating positions. Tehran insists it will not negotiate under pressure, while Washington shows no sign that it will back off pressure for Iranian concessions. Given that it was the U.S. decision to violate the nuclear deal in pursuit of maximum pressure that undermined hopes for future negotiations, it is incumbent on the United States to take the first step to open up space for diplomacy. As a result, Washington should suspend recent sanctions it has imposed, including by extending waivers for foreign purchasers of Iranian oil. Doing so would not necessarily be an abandonment of maximum pressure, which has already been demonstrated, but is necessary for Iran to show its bottom line has been met to engage in talks.
While far from easy, the lowest hanging fruit for diplomacy with Iran may be a prisoner swap. If such negotiations are already underway, they should be intensified. If not, they should be opened immediately. Such swaps have been negotiated in the past, Iran has hinted both privately and publicly that it is open to such talks, and the president himself has demonstrated an interest in bringing Americans home. Not only does the United States owe it to the prisoners and their families to seriously pursue their freedom, but it serves U.S. interests as it could build confidence for broader diplomacy.
Additionally, while the risks of war with Iran are substantial in several theaters, the numerous recent run-ins in the Persian Gulf underscore the need for an Incidents at Sea agreement between Washington and Tehran. The United States and Soviet Union hammered out such an arrangement to avoid unnecessary collisions and miscalculations at the height of the Cold War in 1972, which succeeded in reducing the number of dangerous naval encounters between the two rivals. Striking such an arrangement with Iran would be feasible, provided U.S. pressure on Iran’s oil shipments are relieved, and help protect international shipping moving forward.
Yemen Postes Big Test for Iran The U.S. strategy of using “maximum pressure” is not enough to force Iran into new talks with America. The United States left the discussion table a year ago and in the following months Iran has shown no readiness to return to it. Since then, President Donald Trump has imposed the toughest sanctions against Iran since 1979. Still, Tehran refuses to budge, and its attacks have increased. Iran was the initial suspect after Saudi, Japanese and other tanker ships were damaged but there has been no proof of its involvement. When Yemeni Houthis fired missiles into Saudi Arabia’s Jazan province and at an airfield in Abha, Iran again claimed it had no control over its allies.
US “maximum pressure” on Iran unsettles Syria’s Kurds. Hawkish factions in Washington tout the Syrian Kurdish forces as a way to block Iran from regaining the “land bridge” through the Middle East that it once had through its alliances in Iraq and Syria. Happy to receive protection from Turkey and the Syrian government, the majority Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have long welcomed the support that U.S.-Iranian tensions bring. But now that war with Iran is on the horizon, talk of using northeast Syria as a forward base against Iran is beginning to raise eyebrows with the SDF leadership in Qamishli.
America has overplayed its hand in the Middle East. Washington is struggling to build an international structure to implement maximum pressure on Iran. To this day, the U.S. government has been unable to prevent China from buying Iranian oil, which provides Tehran with a precious lifeline. A further blow to the United States came when Germany, France and the United Kingdom created INSTEX, a payment channel that is aimed at bypassing the US embargo. The trilateral Jerusalem meeting in June proved that the United States and Israel have accepted Russia as the major actor when dealing with Iran. Russian president Vladimir Putin warned that “Iran won’t be alone if the U.S. attacks.”
Point Break: Is Iran ready to retaliate against America? Advocates of limited strikes are mistaken to think Iran would back down if attacked. Iran has proven its resilience, beating off an Iraqi invasion in an eight-year war that cost the lives of somewhere between 300,000 to a million Iranians. A war with the United States might actually benefit Iran’s regime, consolidating popular sentiment behind the nation’s leadership against a foreign military threat. More important, even a concerted U.S. air campaign would fail to destroy all of Iran’s nuclear sites, let alone permanently end its program. It would however ensure that a negotiated solution becomes impossible and that Iran commits all available resources to developing a nuclear deterrent.
Why Trump Won’t Bomb Iran (2019)
Why attacking Iran is insane (2019)
Iran and the levers of power (July 2)
Seeing Red in Trump’s Iran Strategy (July 2)
Iranians are not our enemies (July 1)
The US and Iran are Marching toward war (6-28-19)
Iran close to collapse469 (6-26-19)
With Iran, a Reality show President finally confronts reality (6-21-19). Trump says he doesn’t want another war in the Middle East, but this one would be entirely of his own making.
Why Trump decided not to attack Iran at the last minute (6-21-19). Officials say the president is looking for a peaceful solution to the crisis.
US-Iran: A Collision Course for War (6-21-19)
The US has a lot of options with Iran (6-21-19)
The Iranian hedgehog vs. the American fox (6-21-19). The escalation between the two countries is being driven by the clashing temperaments of their leaders.
On the brink of war with Iran (6-21-19). It is up to Congress, the editorial boards, and opinion leaders to cut through the Trump administration’s attempts to sell America on a war with Iran.
Trump is misleading America into war (6-19-19)
To deter Iran, give war a chance (6-18-19). Either we put the Islamic Republic of Iran back in a box, or we will in effect encourage it to do what it has done since its birth—wage war throughout the Middle East and kill Americans.
New Centcom chief walks tightrope as Iran sends troops (2019). Gen. Kenneth McKenzie must strike a balance between sending a strong deterrent signal and provoking a war in the Middle East.
Maximum pressure on Iran means maximum risk of war (2019). Trump’s strategy is creating a crisis, not solving one.
Guardian View: US and Iran on a Collision Course (2019). This article argues that US economic pressure risks war and risks escalation.
The world is getting sucked into US Iran tensions (6-13-2019). This article makes a general claim that cooperation is better than aggression.
Trump’s Maximum pressure campaign will yield few results (6-5-19). Washington’s strategy towards Tehran seems to backlash and is not expected to lead to amendment of the nuclear deal nor to a substantive change in Iran’s regional policy.
Don’t believe the war hype on Iran (5-28-19). President Donald Trump’s maximum pressure campaign is in many ways a continuation of the status-quo policy—but it is more effectively backing Iran into a corner, which is likely to result in a crisis or war.
Trump is driving Iran into Russia’s arms (2019). US economic and military pressure on Iran is improving Russia-Iran relations.
A nuclear crisis with Iran (2019) – End of the article: Here’s my concern: Maximum pressure won’t topple the regime, strengthen moderate voices in Iran, or resolve any of the other differences Washington has with Tehran. Instead, it is more likely to encourage Iran to resume nuclear development and eventually restart a nuclear weapons program, which it is not—repeat, not—doing at present. Think about it: North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has his relatives and rivals murdered and runs a brutal police state, and he gets to have private meetings with Trump, who says the two of them “fell in love” (whatever the hell that means). Why does Kim get treated this way? Because North Korea has a growing nuclear weapons arsenal.
America must not stumble into war with Iran (2019). This article argues US economic and military pressure against Iran risks war.
Pressure Bad — International Opposition
Why America’s Iran policy doesn’t have international support (2019). Washington’s NATO allies are openly balking at the Trump administration’s increasingly belligerent policy toward Iran. Even the British government, which can normally be counted upon to be a loyal U.S. junior partner during international crises, has shown no enthusiasm for the latest confrontation. In a small but symbolic gesture, Spain has now pulled a warship it had contributed to a U.S.-led naval group in the Persian Gulf that was there ostensibly to mark a historic seafaring anniversary. Spanish officials noted that the mission now seemed focused on alleged threats from Iran. Acting Defense Minister Margarita Robles stated tartly that the U.S. government “has taken a decision outside of the framework of what had been agreed with the Spanish Navy.”
Top US Commander says Iran threat imminent (6-5-19). This article argues that Iran is an imminent threat that needs deterred.
New Negotiations Fail
Iran and the US remain mired in the past (6-13-19). Any future negotiations between the United States and Iran, whether during or after the Trump administration, will need to resolve the many current outstanding issues and conflicting interests between the two countries. But since both the United States and Iran are unwittingly locked into two diverging narratives about the past that have provided the subtext of U.S.-Iranian relations for the past forty years, any lasting rapprochement will also need to take these narratives into account. Future negotiations will need to surmount the sense of U.S. betrayal that is felt by many Iranians, while also acknowledging the sense of injustice and offense Americans have felt since the Iranian revolution and hostage crisis. Diplomats would be wise to factor this reality into their strategies and plans if any efforts to bring the current conflict to an end will be successful. For sure, deft diplomacy will be required to square the circle between these two powerfully competing stories.
US and Iran: Beyond the Rhetoric (2019). This argues that deals with the US, including the Iran nuclear deal, are politically controversial in Iran.
Taking on Tehran (2019). The Trump administration’s pressure on Iran has created an opening for diplomacy.
No Iran Threat
The Iranian missile threat (2019). Though Cordesman doesn’t draw any strong conclusions, there is a lot of evidence in here that tempers any Iran threat.
The Iran war crisis: Are we headed toward a Gulf of Tonkin incident? (2019). One can only hope that an isolated incident or an alleged attack does not spark a retaliation that could lead to a Vietnam-style conflict with Iran, one that could necessitate sending hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops to the Middle East. While President Trump has said he does not want to go to war with Iran, President Johnson likewise did not want to start a war with North Vietnam. But one cannot overlook National Security Advisor John Bolton, who recently said, “Any attack on America or its allies will be met with unrelenting force.”
An open letter to US President Donald Trump on war with Iran (2019). This letter from 100+ military leaders says a war with Iran could escalate and won’t solve anything.
The Iran crisis and the ghosts of the Gulf of Tonkin (2019). This article argues that the status quo is similar to the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which caused escalation and war in Vietnam.
Impacts — Iran War Bad
War with Iran would be a disaster (2019). The author argues that Trump doesn’t want war but that constant threats risk crisis escalation.
Iran Gulf Aggression Bad
The strategic threat from Iranian hybrid warfare in the Gulf (6-13-19). This piece argues that Iranian aggression the Gulf, even low level aggression, will trigger oil price increases and hurt the global economy.
What a war with Iran would look like (2019). Goldberg argues that although no one really wants a war that it could start, escalate, and spread outside the region.
The Iran war: Consequences for regional allies (2019). This article says a war with Iran will escalate to involve many countries and interests in the Middle East. Tehran is expected, in the case of that scenario, to respond indiscriminately as it did at some point during the Iran-Iraq War when Iranians targeted officially noncombatant assets such as Kuwaiti and Saudi ships during the “tanker war” phase of the Iran-Iraq War from 1984 onwards. There is also a key difference today: Iran didn’t have many ballistic and cruise missiles back then but it has built up a massive arsenal since, and will not hesitate to use them against a wide range of targets including onshore and offshore oil facilities in the Gulf. Probably it is in the anticipation of such scenarios and engagements that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently cautioned at a special meeting with intelligence chiefs and military commanders that Israel would make every effort to steer clear of the intensifying tensions in the Gulf and avoid interfering directly in the situation.
The Last War — and the Next (2019). This article reviews new research on Iraq and why the war failed. It then situates that discussion in the context of the current potential war in Iran, its likely failure, and its risk of escalation. It is unclear whether this brinkmanship will lead to conflict, stalemate, or renewed dialogue. Regardless, some contemporary realities should drive decision-making. Iran is roughly four times as large as Iraq in terms of territory and has roughly four times the population Iraq had in 2003. Iran’s geography is more complex than that of Iraq, and its governance is at least as challenging. Although Iran menaces its neighbors and funds terrorist proxies, Washington has yet to articulate any threat to the United States severe enough to justify a war and lacks clear legal authority to wage one. For these and other reasons, not even the most bellicose proponents of confronting Iran have suggested a full-scale assault.
Iran could do some serious damage if attacked (2019). This article describes how Iran could escalate the war and the impacts an attack would cause. It also details a lot of the military damage that would be done to the US.
Can Iran withstand US pressure? (5-30-19). This article says that Iran will try to wait out the Trump administration but that surviving sanctions will be tough.
Taking on Tehran (2019).This post argues that sanctions will not produce regime change but will instead produce aggression and war. Rather than simply removing the sanctions, however, the author argues that we should conditionally negotiate a new Iran nuclear deal.
The US is already fighting an economic war with Iran that is hurting the wrong people (2019). This article generally says that sanctions have undermined the economy and hurt ordinary Iranians. It also says that sanctions alone (instead of part of a negotiating strategy) fail.
Should Increase Relations
Bolton in Wonderland (5-14-19). This article just says Bolton is pressing for war with Iran, somewhat against Trump’s wishes.
Beware of the Tides of War with Iran (5-20-19)
A path to war with Iran (5-20-19). In 2017, when I imagined various ways the United States might stumble into a conflict, I got some things right and some things wrong. What I certainly failed to anticipate was that two years further on, we would be relying on the instincts of Donald Trump to keep us out of war
Iran is scaring its friends, too (2019)
What’s Trump’s Iran plan? Nobody knows (5-16-19)
Trump’s hired hands want a war with Iran (5-14-19)
Escalating US-Iran tensions (2019)
John Bolton’s Middle East War plans (5-9-19)
The art of a new Iran deal (5-9-19)
Rouhani’s warning to Trump (5-8-19)