A man carries a giant flag made of flags of Iran, Palestine, Syria and Hezbollah, during a ceremony marking the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran, Feburary 2016.
(photo credit: RAHEB HOMAVANDI/REUTERS)
You may have your criticisms of US President Donald J. Trump; I certainly do. It is difficult to refute, however, the fact that 2017 has seen a very proactive foreign policy by the executive branch. After eight years of a relatively tranquil and isolated foreign policy under the Obama administration, consisting of a retreat in national interests, the United States has resurfaced in an attempt to restore its international political standing. Whether it has been engaging strongly against North Korea’s nuclear ambitions or engaging in aggressive diplomacy in the United Nations to combat the UN’s obvious anti-Israel bias, the US enters this 2018 with concerns, optimism and hope.
As we transitioned into the new year, the Islamic Republic of Iran faces the strongest waves of mass protests against the regime since 2009. Thousands of Iranians are showing their dissatisfaction with the ayatollah’s funding of Shi’ite terrorist activities throughout the world and the lack of economic growth that was promised following the signing of the nuclear deal with the US in 2015. Massive government repression and will for change on behalf of the people continues to fire these protests, but will it be enough? After all, the 2009 uprising showed the same potential, but little foreign involvement allowed the regime to quickly suppress the protests and resume its malicious activities.
Times have changed and so have the circumstances, but above all the American leadership has changed. President Trump now faces a regionally isolated Iran and a slow alignment of interests between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Both concerned about the growing influence of the Shi’ite axis in southern Lebanon (with the growth of Hezbollah) and in Syria, Israel and Saudi Arabia have perhaps never felt so mutually threatened by regional politics. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Saudi crown are pressuring the US to return to the region as a main player, to slowly push Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interests back to the Balkans.
Whether supplying arms to Iranian protesters or even leading efforts in the UN to gain international support for regime change in the Islamic Republic, the US has the potential to create unexpected alliances in the region that could potentially lead to the resolution of other, lesser conflicts, such as the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
Not only Saudi Arabia but all other Arab nations desperately seeking stability and protection against radical Islam, such as Egypt and Jordan, are viable members of a future coalition against a Shi’ite terrorist powerhouse.
Even if temporary, this option must be seriously considered by regional players and by the US.
This is more than just another nation struggling with discontented constituents – it is about the obligation of the international community to hold the world’s main state sponsor of terrorism to justice. Whether it is the 12 million Syrian refugees that have been ignored by the UN or the millions of Israelis living as hostages to over a hundred thousand Hezbollah long-range missiles, Iran has certainly proved its worth as a founding member of Bush’s “Axis of Evil.” A large-scale military campaign will be costly as well as unpopular and sanctions have proven ineffective.
Supporting a popular uprising will be the most cost-effective method to push the fanatic Shi’ite leadership out of power.The author is a graduate student in the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. A former IDF Paratrooper, he holds a masters degree in diplomacy and conflict resolution from IDC Herzliya.