Rhetoric apparently reigns supreme in the Trump universe. President Donald Trump seems to be least interested in transforming his words to action. This is not to say that he always says trivial things. Between the daily barrage of Tweets and negotiating the crises associated with the presidency, Trump does offer some pearls of wisdom. Take the case of Iran. The president adopted a largely pragmatic rhetoric on Iran during the campaign. He sent some feelers after assuming office — including one on designating the notorious revolutionary guards as a terror outfit — but has failed to follow through his earlier promises. He still has time to undo the mistakes of the Obama administration.
The talk about blacklisting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps could be transformed into action. This will be a concrete step in stemming the tide of relentless chaos emanating from Tehran. The so-called revolutionary guards act as the main vehicle for Tehran to advance its agenda in the region. Their footprint is everywhere in the Middle East. The main theater has been Syria for the last six years, where the terror outfit has become the de-facto ruler, perpetrating carnage that has claimed upwards of 500,000 lives.
IRGC engineered the sectarian chaos in Iraq by forcing the already subservient government to further suppress the Sunnis. The outcome is no longer a secret. After midwifing the birth of the Islamic State, the IRGC has unleashed a new reign of terror on the Iraqi Sunnis. The Shiite militias, who take orders from Tehran, have been involved in massive human rights violations. They are also following an apparent scorched earth campaign to ensure that no Sunnis could return to their homes when things get back to normal. Qasem Soleimani, who heads the Qods Force of the outfit, has made many visits to Iraq and Syria to lead the annihilation campaign.
Lebanon has long been the favorite playground of the Iranian regime. Contrary to common belief, it is Soleimani and his Ayatollah masters who call the shots, not the Hezbollah figurehead Hasan Nasrallah. The regime recently ordered the assassination of a prominent Hezbollah commander in Syria, Mustafa Amine Badreddine, who had started disobeying Tehran’s directives. Nasrallah’s men did carry out the orders, but these were signed by Soleimani. The obvious contingency plan was to blame it on the rebels but the truth came out rather swiftly. Badreddine was also allegedly involved in the assassination of Rafik Hariri, a former prime minister of Lebanon. Those orders might also have come from Tehran.
Mr. Soleimani has caused enough bloodshed through his direct actions that he could easily be branded as the biggest threat to global peace in the contemporary era. Thanks to his status as a high-ranking official — and with naked support from the regime — he is free to travel around and spread his reign of terror. He was recently compared to Osama bin Laden in his actions and carnage capabilities. In actuality, Soleimani has long surpassed the level of atrocities and body count that could be traced back to bin Laden. And he is still alive and well.
IRGC has an enormous financial empire, which helps it fund the plethora of terror activities in the region. President Trump also reportedly got entangled in the financial web of the organization when he sought partnership in a tainted Azerbaijani hotel. The complex and inextricable linkages between the organization and the Iranian regime indicate the presence of an elaborate money-laundering and terror-financing network.
The notion that the so-called moderates in Iran could counter the influence of IRGC is not valid anymore. As a matter of fact, it has been emboldened after the election of Hassan Rouhani. The recruitment drive for Shiite militias now extend to Afghanistan and Pakistan and the Yemen conflict was intensified under Rouhani’s watch. The faux moderates are enabling the terror outfit and provide it with the necessary diplomatic cover.
It is also a misconception that Iran could help US defeat the ISIS. IRGC and the associated militias have spilled American blood in the past. They won’t hesitate in doing so in the future. Moreover, the annihilation campaign they are leading will ensure perpetual chaos in the region, pulling US into a never-ending cycle of conflict. The Obama administration turned a blind eye to Tehran’s machinations in the region and enabled the Assad regime through its inaction. The appeasement policy has come back to bite with disastrous effects for global peace.
While the Trump administration may need more time to figure out on how to deal with Iran, the least they could do is to blacklist IRGC and its top leadership. Better still, some international effort could be carried out to bring Soleimani to justice. This will also help Trump score some brownie points in an otherwise lackluster presidency. The real onus lies on Rex Tillerson and James Mattis, who are well-aware of the situation and can take drastic steps to root out the evil. Only if they could come out of the shadow of the Obama doctrine.