Iran’s economy is reeling just days before new sanctions on the country’s Central Bank and its all-important energy sector are set to kick in. Tehran has been dealt a serious blow as fed up Iranians flood the streets to demand democratic and economic reforms. Despite these positive developments, critics of President Trump have labeled his policies irresponsible and misguided.
These attacks are nothing more than an attempt to distract from the fact that the president’s policies are working and forcing behavior change in Tehran.
The administration is pursuing a multi-pronged approach to deter its Tehran’s militaristic ambitions, stop its economic means to fund terror, and help amplify the voices of the Iranian people. President Obama’s 2015 Iranian Nuclear Deal ceded significant control back to Tehran. But Trump is putting America back in the driver’s seat.
Obama’s Iran agenda was flawed from the onset. His administration incorrectly assumed that an economically integrated Tehran would moderate and become a responsible international actor. The pinnacle of this misguided “” approach was the 2015 nuclear deal.
With the agreement signed, more than in frozen assets flowed back to the Islamist regime. Worse, the deal didn’t include restraints on Iran’s destabilization activities. In lieu of such restrictions, Ayatollah Khamenei embarked on an ambitious campaign to consolidate a “” through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.
At the supreme leader’s direction, aid flowed to support the barbaric Assad regime to the tune of per year. Hezbollah sent thousands of Islamist fighters pouring into Syria with the backing of Tehran. The Islamist Houthis in Yemen received ballistic missiles and arms to combat Saudi Arabia. And militias in Iraq were outfitted to further fracture Baghdad’s control of its own territory.
As Iran’s leaders and strongmen prospered, everyday Iranians suffered. Youth unemployment remained high. Water and food shortages were frequent. Basic development projects were forestalled to fund the regime’s terror campaign. Subsidies ensured Hezbollah fighters received generous compensation at the of Iranian public workers.
Considering all of this, it’s clear that Obama’s policies led to calamity. Iran used its newfound funds to dramatically increase its terror campaign. Appeasement and complacency failed and put America’s security at risk.
With this in mind, it’s fair to ask how the Trump administration’s new posture is upending the status quo. To start, the president made a bet against the long-held assumption that unilateral economic sanctions aren’t effective. That gamble paid off.
Even just the announcement of new sanctions has had a damning effect. Iran’s energy exports were estimated at million barrels per day in September, a substantial drop from the million peak in June. This is devastating for a regime that collects nearly of its tax revenue from its energy sector.
Iran’s major energy producers have even stopped releasing daily export data in an attempt to hide the damage. Still, analysts expect Iran to lose another barrels per day by the end of 2018 – a big win for Trump.
Empowering America’s regional partners has also been an important component of the administration’s doctrine. Israel and traditional Arab allies were ordered to fall in line with Obama’s Iran deal despite it being harmful to their interests. Now, the “Iran first” agenda has come to an end.
Israel, which faces the threat of a prolonged Iranian presence in Syria, has gladly taken the gloves off. The Jewish state conducted strikes on nearly in Syria over the past 18 months, targeting Iran’s military installations and arms transfers to its proxies. Strikes of this sort are not only important for Israel’s security but also align with the Trump administration’s goal of seeing Iranian forces exit Syria.
Trump has also strengthened ties with key Arab partners like Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In May 2017, he signed a major $110 billion arms deal with the former to modernize its combat capabilities. Agreements have also been reached with the UAE. Furthermore, the administration has provided logistical support to Arab coalition forces fighting the Houthis.
Most importantly, Trump has ended Obama’s silent treatment towards Iranian reformers. The previous administration remained silent during major Iranian protests despite Tehran having a grotesque history of executing dissenters and journalists. America’s former silence is now loud protest.
At the United Nations, Nikki Haley has made a routine of lambasting Tehran over its human rights violations. Both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton have made major speeches condemning abuses. The president has also frequently highlighted the plight of protesters and promised American assistance in the future.
Still, expect the critics to loudly attack Trump. Let them repeatedly cry wolf while the administration delivers results. Ayatollah Khamenei and his ilk will no longer go unchecked. Trump is clearly winning in Iran.
Alex Titus () is a policy adviser and fellow at America First Policies, a nonprofit organization supporting policy initiatives that will put America first.