WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) - The US Congress remains very concerned about Iran’s expansionism in the Middle East, as well as its nuclear ambitions.
“We need to fully state that Iran’s interests are counter to United States interests in Iraq and throughout the entire region,” Rep. Brad Schneider (D, Illinois) told Kurdistan 24 late last month.
“What I’m looking for from the administration,” in particular, from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, “is a clear, full strategy to thwart Iran’s malign influence in Iraq, in the region, and in Syria,” Schneider said.
Schneider called on the administration to provide an “articulation of a strategy” toward Iran and explain to Congress how it will implement that strategy.
Michael Pregent, who advised senior US military officers in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), and is now a Fellow at the Hudson Institute, testified last week before the National Security subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
The hearing, chaired by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R, Florida), aimed at exploring US policy options, now that Donald Trump has withdrawn the US from the Iranian nuclear agreement.
In his House testimony, Pregent supported a US military option as one way of addressing the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. He expanded on that view in an interview with Kurdistan 24 following the hearing.
“The military option is an eight-hour air campaign to set back Iran’s nuclear program a decade,” Pregent said.
It is “not about regime change,” nor is it about “an invasion of US forces.”
The multiple, persistent problems that emerged with OIF after Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, have made both concepts unpopular among Americans.
Rather, as Pregent explained, the military option is “simply about targeting these military sites, where these nuclear activities are taking place that are beyond the scope of the IAEA” [International Atomic Energy Agency], charged with carrying out nuclear inspections in Iran and ensuring the regime’s compliance.
Asked whether the US should support a policy of “regime change,” Pregent replied, “The Iranian people are seriously thinking” about doing that themselves.
Referring to the widespread popular unrest that began last December, Pregent explained that the regime “had squandered all” the economic benefits of the nuclear deal.
“The Iranian protests are about that.”
Instead of using the economic windfall that came with the nuclear deal to improve the lives of Iranians, Pregent stated, the regime “took that money and used it on adventurism to further destabilize the Middle East.”
He also disputed the notion that if the US were to support the protestors, “somehow, they will back the mullahs.”
The same question arose in 2009, at the time of Iran’s “Green Revolution,” when Robert Gates was US Secretary of Defense.
“I was persuaded by the State Department’s experts and by CIA analysts who briefed us in the Situation Room of the White House,” Gates recalled in his memoirs, that “too powerful an American voice on behalf of the protestors might provide ammunition for the regime.”
“In retrospect, I think we could and should have done more, at least rhetorically,” he concluded.
“We need to listen to the Iranian people,” Pregent told Kurdistan 24. “We should echo what the protestors” are saying: “the regime needs to go.”
“They’re not asking for the regime to reform,” Pregent affirmed. “They’re asking for it to go away.”