In recent years, one of the most divisive foreign policy subjects in Washington has been none other than Iran. The deal sealed by the Obama administration with other world powers aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear program and altering the regime’s gross behavior, saw its way through Congress without a single Republican voting in favor.
President Donald Trump made it a hallmark of his campaign to adopt a tougher stance against Tehran. Recent developments have once again brought Iran at the top of the congressional agenda with the weighing of new initiatives.
President Trump has not defined the exact nature of his approach against Iran, despite unprecedentedly placing the regime “on notice.” The Obama administration went through intense Iran policy debates, and to this end, many members on Capitol Hill have become experts from the time they have spent on this matter, far beyond any other subject. As White House officials continue to weigh their options, Congress can seize the initiative to present an assertive perspective able to gain the backing of both executive and legislative branches.
A slate of core components should be included in this congressional effort.
Lawmakers should begin their measures by expressing their view for the need to carefully oversee Iran’s strict compliance with the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). While disagreements have flared in the past in this regard, a consensus is being established in Congress and the White House that vigorously enforcing the deal is the best roadmap to holding Iran accountable for probable future violations.
A bipartisan congressional panel should be established to guarantee correct JCPOA implementation and holding hearings to maintain the subject high on the general foreign policy playbook. Congress should also raise the costs of Iran’s potential violations, to force the regime to think twice about taking such a path. This would involve sanctions far beyond those triggered if the deal collapses entirely.
Congress should support the Trump administration’s new effort to improve ties with Arab Gulf allies nearly broken under Obama’s watch for the sake of the Iran nuclear deal. A variety of options, including weapons sales and different methods of cooperation, are available in this regard. Establishing a broad multinational task force with its Gulf partners should be a major priority for the U.S. Such a relationship would enhance exercises and training campaigns, intelligence-sharing, and joint operations. Such an entity can employ attacks on different targets deemed necessary, such as Iran’s proxy groups and other terrorist networks across the region.
Do not be mistaken, however: there is no intention to promote a pro-war campaign against Iran, as launching such a campaign would play into the regime’s hands. The silver bullet or the final nail in the coffin against Iran, at least for now, is for Congress to pass a bill designating the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. This is the measure that will send the necessary signal to Tehran that neither America nor the international community will tolerate any longer their belligerence of any nature.
Such a move will prevent any further wars in the region, support the Iranian people against the very entity behind Iran’s domestic clampdown and human rights violations, and weaken the regime in its entirety prior to the crucial May 19 presidential election. Congress can thus set the stage for the Iranian people to pour into the streets, similar to the 2009 episode, and express their true feelings about the mullahs’ hideous rule.