How Should We Deal With Iran?

On Friday, Bret Stephens posted a column in The New York Times about the recent aggressive actions taken by Iran against international shipping. Bret Stephens is not a supporter of President Trump, but in this instance, his views seem to be in line with the policies of the Trump administration.

The column notes:

On April 14, 1988, the U.S.S. Samuel B. Roberts, a frigate, hit an Iranian naval mine while sailing in the Persian Gulf. The explosion injured 10 of her crew and nearly sank the ship. Four days later, the U.S. Navy destroyed half the Iranian fleet in a matter of hours. Iran did not molest the Navy or international shipping for many years thereafter.

Now that’s changed. Iran’s piratical regime is back yet again to its piratical ways.

Or so it seems, based on a detailed timeline of Thursday’s attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman provided by the U.S. Central Command, including a surveillance video of one of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps patrol boats removing an unexploded limpet mine from the hull of one of the damaged tankers.

The column notes that the evidence points to Iran as behind the recent attacks:

In this case, however, the evidence against Iran is compelling. CentCom’s account notes that “a U.S. aircraft observed an IRGC Hendijan class patrol boat and multiple IRGC fast attack craft/fast inshore attack craft (FAC/FIAC) in the vicinity of the M/T Altair,” one of the damaged tankers. The Iranian boats are familiar to the U.S. Navy after decades of observing them at close range. And staging deniable attacks that fall just below the threshold of open warfare on the U.S. is an Iranian specialty.

So what do we do now?

The column concludes:

It can’t be the usual Trumpian cycle of bluster and concession. Neither can it be the liberal counsel of feckless condemnation followed by inaction. Firing on unarmed ships in international waters is a direct assault on the rules-based international order in which liberals claim to believe. To allow it to go unpunished isn’t an option.

What is appropriate is a new set of rules — with swift consequences if Iran chooses to break them. The Trump administration ought to declare new rules of engagement to allow the Navy to engage and destroy Iranian ships or fast boats that harass or threaten any ship, military or commercial, operating in international waters. If Tehran fails to comply, the U.S. should threaten to sink any Iranian naval ship that leaves port.

If after that Iran still fails to comply, we would be right to sink its navy, in port or at sea. The world cannot tolerate freelance Somali pirates. Much less should it tolerate a pirate state seeking to hold the global economy hostage through multiplying acts of economic terrorism.

Nobody wants a war with Iran. But not wanting a war does not mean remaining supine in the face of its outrages. We sank Iran’s navy before. Tehran should be put on notice that we are prepared and able to do it again.

Sometimes you simply have to stand up to a bully in order to correct his behavior.

We Might Have To Stand Up To This Bully

Reuters is reporting today that an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard vessel pointed its weapon at a U.S. military helicopter in the Strait of Hormuz on Saturday. Recently there have been a series of similar incidents, but this is the first such incident since the election of Donald Trump.

The article reports:

The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the incident took place when a Navy MH-60 helicopter flew within half a mile (0.8 km) of two Iranian vessels in international waters. One of the vessels pointed a weapon at the helicopter, the U.S. officials said.

“The behavior by our standards is provocative and could be seen as an escalation,” the officials said. At no point did the crew of the helicopter feel threatened, they added.

Years of mutual animosity eased when Washington lifted sanctions on Tehran in January after a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But serious differences still remain over Iran’s ballistic missile program, and over conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

President Obama has chosen to overlook bad behavior on the part of the Iranians–even thanking them for the return of sailors they took prisoner. President Obama has even loosened the economic sanctions on Iran, something I am hoping President Trump will undo.

Ronald Reagan got it right when he advocated for ‘peace through strength.’ Weakness invites war–it does not prevent it.