During the campaign, President Donald Trump repeatedly pledged to address Iran’s destabilizing influence in the Middle East. Nearly three months into his presidency, however, no coherent strategy on Iran, or the Middle East more broadly, has materialized. Instead, the administration has moved to propose self-defeating budget cuts to the U.S. Department of State and military escalations untethered to strategic objectives. The recent chemical attack in Syria underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive Middle East policy.
The Center for American Progress has released an issue brief highlighting the necessity for the administration to develop its strategy for the region, including for countering Iran’s activities. The issue brief calls for linking military and tactical moves to diplomatic approaches that reinforce a broader regional strategy aimed at conflict resolution and the preservation of the Middle East’s state system.
“The administration hasn’t developed a strategy for the Middle East, but it has proposed massive budget cuts that will impair its ability to implement any future strategy. It has no discernible policy on Syria, Iraq, or Yemen, but it has been quick to ramp up military action with potentially far-reaching consequences,” said Brian Katulis, CAP Senior Fellow and co-author of the report. “These moves, without the support of diplomacy and lacking any broad strategy, risk deepening America’s involvement in the Middle East without meaningfully advancing peace or stability.”
The strong-defense, smart-offense strategy proposed by the issue brief includes improving the defensive capabilities of American partners in the region, encouraging military cohesion and integration in the Gulf Cooperation Council, and pursuing a carefully targeted approach when addressing Iran’s regional activities. Tactical moves against Iran must balance the need for a strong deterrent with the desire to maintain the nuclear agreement. Overall, the administration must embed these policy shifts within a broad regional strategy that emphasizes partner capability, stability, and a robust state system.
Click here to read the brief.
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