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Ignatius’ Bad Advice on Iran

David Ignatius proposes a very questionable idea:

The right strategy is to present Tehran with a sharp choice: Either join serious negotiations to end the regional wars in Syria and Yemen, or face the prospect of much stiffer, U.S.-led resistance [bold mine-DL].

It is debatable how much Iranian participation in negotiations would help to end these wars, but it seems especially bizarre in the case of Yemen to insist that Iran help to bring an end to a war that has been so greatly exacerbated by the Saudi intervention supported by the U.S. The truly strange part of Ignatius’ proposal is the threat of “much stiffer, U.S.-led resistance,” which implies that the U.S. should commit to an increased role in these wars with the aim of penalizing Iran. This is misguided in Syria, where regime change makes less sense than it ever did, and it is absurd in Yemen, where Iranian influence remains negligible.

Ignatius’ advocacy for a tougher anti-Assad policy is a mindless recycling of interventionist arguments from the last four years. It was a lousy idea when Syria hawks first started pushing for more aggressive policies in 2011, and it is deranged under the current circumstances. Doing more to “squeeze” Assad and his allies now would just hasten the success of ISIS and other jihadists in Syria with the attendant massacres of religious minorities that would predictably follow.

Ignatius makes no attempt here to justify a larger U.S. role in either conflict. He wants to present Iran with a “sharp choice” without first explaining why the U.S. has any interest in following through on the threats he wants the government to make. A major flaw in Ignatius’ argument is the presumption that it is Iran that is the primary destabilizing force in these wars that needs to be “contained.” It is the Saudis and their Gulf allies that have been fueling jihadism in Syria for years, and it is again the Saudis and their coalition partners that have been wrecking Yemen for the last three and a half months. If there is a government in the region that needs to be presented with a “sharp choice” regarding its destabilizing foreign policy, it is the one based in Riyadh. It isn’t Iran that continues trying to bomb Yemen into submission while starving its civilian population. If the U.S. is concerned about destabilizing behavior, it ought to look to its own clients first.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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