By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Tensions between the US and the Iranian regime have reached new heights. A leading American lawmaker, Rep. Michael McCaul, who is the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has pointed out that the recent intelligence obtained about Iran’s threat to US interests in the Middle East was extremely detailed.
“To the extent I can discuss it, it was human intelligence,” he told USA Today on Friday, adding that: “One of the Hezbollah cells is known for its kidnapping and killing operations, and their directive was to go in and kill and kidnap American soldiers.”
Considering these serious threats, the State Department this month ordered all “non-emergency” personnel to immediately leave Iraq. Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry has also ordered all its citizens to leave Iraq. In addition, the US has taken pre-emptive measures by deploying an aircraft carrier, along with B-52 bombers and other military forces, to the Middle East. Furthermore, President Donald Trump warned the Iranian leaders that, if they threatened the US, Tehran would meet its “official end.”
Iran’s terrorist and militant groups across the region are one of the key reasons for the current heightened tensions
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
There are several crucial steps that the Iranian leaders can take in order to prevent the heightened tensions from spiraling further and turning the region into a battlefield.
First of all, Iran’s clerical establishment ought to change its political calculations when it comes to its ties to its militias and proxies. This means Tehran must refrain from ordering these groups to inflict harm on nations and governments that the Iranian leaders view as rivals.
However, instead of instructing its proxies to de-escalate tensions, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force — the elite branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that is tasked with advancing Iran’s revolutionary and political interests in foreign nations — has toldIran-aligned Iraqi Shiite militias to “prepare for proxy war.”
In order to de-escalate tensions, Tehran also needs to stop shipping advanced weaponries to its militia groups. Instead, reports reveal that the Iranian regime has been increasing its efforts to ship advanced weaponry to its proxies, such as Hezbollah, that can turn unguided rockets into precision-guided missiles. In other words, Iran’s terrorist and militant groups across the region are one of the key reasons for the current heightened tensions.
Secondly, instead of posing serious threats to almost every country in the region, the Tehran regime must act as a normal political establishment. One of Iran’s policies that increases insecurity in the region is linked to its ballistic missile program. The range of existing Iranian ballistic missiles is more than 2,000 kilometers, which would put Eastern Europe within range, as well as countries such as Turkey, Israel, and Yemen.
Iran has fired many long-range ballistic missiles and laser-guided surface-to-surface missiles in recent years. It has also tested a ballistic missile capable of carrying multiple warheads. Iran has repeatedly violated UN Security Council resolution 2215, which “calls upon Iran not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.” Iran possesses the largest ballistic missile arsenal in the region.
Such activities are provocative and further destabilize the region. By launching ballistic missiles, as well posting a stealth warship in the Gulf, the Iranian regime is further escalating tensions and appears to be seeking every opportunity to project its power in order to reassert its hegemony.
Thirdly, Iran’s leaders must address the threat that their nuclear program continues to pose to other nations in the region. It has become crystal clear that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which was reached between Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, and the US) did not curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. There are many deficiencies in the nuclear agreement, including the sunset clauses that remove restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program when the agreement expires.
On the one hand, the Iranian leaders claim their nuclear program is designed for peaceful purposes. On the other, the regime is repeatedly caught carrying out clandestine nuclear activities. Tehran should come to the negotiating table and, once and for all, legitimately remove the threat that its nuclear program and activities pose to the region. This means allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency to inspect Tehran’s military bases, including Parchin, which is reportedly the core location where the regime conducts its nuclear activities.
In conclusion, the Iranian regime can de-escalate tensions in the region by starting to act as a normal and constructive country. The ball is in Iran’s court.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman, and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
This article was first published by arabnews