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On Iran, follow Reagan’s example

Planning and forceful implementation can bring down the ayatollahs as it did the Soviet bloc.

The Reagan administration designed and then implemented a multi-pronged grand strategy to win the Cold War and bring down the seemingly indestructible Soviet regime. Between his election and inauguration, president-elect Ronald Reagan was asked in an interview what would be the policy of his government vis-a-vis the Soviet bloc. His response, without hesitation was “We win — they lose.”

Reagan was ridiculed for that statement by the media and by the foreign policy establishment of the day. For over thirty years, US policy in the Cold War had vacillated between containment (trying to prevent the expansion of the Soviet bloc), and so-called “detente” (a term adopted to avoid using “appeasement,” a word in bad odor since the Munich Pact of 1938).

But that is exactly what he set out to do, once in the White House. Hiring a National Security Council staff dedicated to fashioning the policies and strategies designed to defeat the Soviet Union without war, liberate the satellites and foment regime change, and appointing high officials equally dedicated to implementing those policies and strategies, especially in the defense and commerce departments, USIA, and CIA. By March 1984, the planning process was completed and the implementation began. As they say, the rest is history. By 1989, the year Reagan left office, the Cold War was won and the Soviet satellites were freed. In December 1991, the Soviet Union itself collapsed and its constituent “republics” gained their independence.

In achieving this result, the US and its allies used every instrument of statecraft available to them with the notable exception of war. Diplomacy, propaganda, economics, subversion and military display were deployed in a systematic and coordinated fashion.

The Iranian people on several occasions, including very recently, have demonstrated that they are sick and tired of the tyrannical regime of the ayatollahs. The proper grand strategy of the West in the face of the Iranian threat would be neither simply attempting containment and even less the appeasement of a “deal” with a strong resemblance to Munich. Dialogue is always a part of any grand strategy. The Reagan administration never refused to negotiate with the USSR, but did so only in the context of an overall strategic framework and from a position of strength.

Constant broadcasting should be aimed at Iran in Farsi, dedicated to informing the Iranian people honestly and truthfully what the world, regional and local situations are, and always demonstrating strong support of the Iranian people, who are not our enemies — indeed, the Iranian regime is the common enemy of both the West and of its own people.

Economic sanctions, both trade-related and financial, should be consistently applied and strictly enforced. It was, indeed, the relative success of such sanctions that brought the Iranians to the negotiating table, resulting in an agreement undoubtedly beyond their wildest hopes, including the release of billions of dollars previously withheld, with no quid pro quo whatsoever.

The whole exercise should be directed toward subverting the Iranian regime, as in the case of the Soviet Union, with every possible support of opposition elements both within and outside the Iranian establishment. Constant military display should be exhibited, with powerful naval and air contingents permanently on the scene and any provocation promptly and overwhelmingly countered. Unlike the case with the Soviets, the US is immensely more powerful militarily than Iran, and the Iranians do not yet have nuclear weapons, whereas the Soviets had thousands of missiles and warheads.

The threat of war should never be formally renounced. It wasn’t necessary in the 1980s, and it should not be necessary now, but it should always be available as a final option.

The US is lucky in that, in this effort, it will have the strong support of Saudi Arabia, some of the Gulf States, and Israel, as the US in its anti-Soviet strategies had the strong support of its NATO allies; something, frankly, which it cannot count on now in implementing an anti-Iranian grand strategy.

I have no doubt that, with rare exceptions, such a program would have the overwhelming support of the Israeli government and population. After all, Iran with nuclear weapons guaranteed by the infamous “deal” is an existential threat to Israel. When all is said and done, the entire exercise must be directed to one overall objective: “We win — they lose.”

The article was originally published by Globes.