After nuclear deal is resolved, U.S. should cooperate with regional allies to challenge Iran's aggressive foreign activities
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Even as the United States and Iran look for areas of common interest, the United States should signifi- cantly increase its efforts to counter Iran’s regional surrogates and proxies. Such an approach is intended to deter Iranian meddling in the region by signaling to Iran’s leadership, particularly some of the hard- liners and leaders of the IRGC-QF, that Iran is not ascendant in the region and that if it pushes too far it risks a direct conflict with the United States. These actions would also signal to America’s Arab partners, especially Saudi Arabia, that the United States is not abandoning the region to Iran or pursuing the feared “Persian Pivot.”
This means making clear to Iran that even though it might receive sanctions relief through a nuclear deal, it will not be fully welcomed back into the community of nations or receive relief from terrorism-related sanctions until it stops playing a destructive role in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon. The United States might also consider increasing interdictions of Iranian weapons ship- ments, improving intelligence cooperation with its partners, pursuing more aggressive joint covert actions against Iranian supported terrorism, and finding ways to expose Iranian operatives and embarrass Iran when it pursues irresponsible destabilizing policies in the Middle East. The United States has already started to increase its support for such efforts by backing Saudi military operations against the Houthis in Yemen, provid- ing intelligence to enable air strikes, and increasing naval presence to deter Iranian arms shipments.
Once the United States and its partners are able to clearly communicate their determination to Iran, over time they may be able to shift Iran’s calculus and bring it into a political negotiation on how to stabilize the region. But this is not possible as long as Iran’s leaders continue to miscalculate their own strength and perceive themselves as ascendant in the region.