With escalating tensions in North Korea, Syria and Yemen, the last thing we need is to instigate conflict in the Middle East.
Several recent actions threaten to do just that. Congress is threatening to pass a bill that could endanger U.S. troops fighting alongside Iranians in Iraq. A proposed Senate bill would put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way by labeling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist group. This label is unnecessary, since Iran has already been declared a state sponsor of terrorism by the U.S. government.
Worse, targeting the corps could backfire. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard forces are supporting Iraqi army and Shia militia fighting alongside U.S. troops against ISIS. Targeting the corps could provoke a fatal backlash against our troops and undermine the fight against ISIS.
In addition, an open conflict or even higher tensions between the U.S. and Iran could drive oil prices drastically higher and stall our economy. The Strait of Hormuz is a strategically important strait that is a mere 21 nautical miles wide and could be easily mined by Iran, stopping 20 percent of the world’s oil from being shipped. Not only would it affect our economy, it would also give aid to our enemies, like ISIS and Russia, who would benefit from higher oil prices to spread terrorism and destabilize our democratic allies.
Six years ago, we were on the brink of war with Iran. Fortunately, our leaders decided to try diplomacy rather than rush forward with reckless, unilateral military force that would have only delayed Iran’s nuclear program, emboldened Iranian hardliners and united the Iranian people behind the regime. Today we have a diplomatic agreement that blocked Iran’s path to the bomb and prevented a war.
The Trump administration recently certified that Iran is in full compliance with the nuclear agreement. Since the deal was put in place, Iran has removed 98 percent of its stockpile of low enriched uranium, dismantled two-thirds of its centrifuges, destroyed the core of its heavy water reactors and allowed 24/7 inspections of its sensitive facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The agency continues to confirm that Iran is complying with the deal.
The White House is threatening to withhold sanctions relief, which we agreed to under the deal, because of Iran’s continued support for terrorism, an area not covered by the deal. This would be a serious mistake. Withholding sanctions relief would be a clear violation of the deal. It would allow Iran to walk away, blame the U.S. for the deal’s collapse and restart its nuclear program, once again leaving us no recourse but military action.
Of course, the nuclear agreement did not solve all our problems. Iran still poses a threat to the United States and our allies. Its continued development of ballistic missiles (in defiance of international law), its human rights violations, its support for terrorism cannot and should not be tolerated.
We should work with our international allies to develop effective solutions to these threats, including, potentially, targeted multilateral sanctions. Reckless, unilateral action is never effective.
And above all, we must remember that these threats would be much greater if Iran had the bomb. Any solution that undermines the nuclear deal and endangers our troops is not a solution at all.
I have spent a good portion of my time in the Navy in the Persian Gulf. I was in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm. I was in Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and the United Arab Emirates for Operation Enduring Freedom.
I applaud Sen. Claire McCaskill’s support for the Iran nuclear deal and her strong support for our veterans and armed forces. I hope she and Sen. Roy Blunt will work to address the Iran challenge in a way that enforces, rather than undermines, the nuclear deal and, most importantly, in a way that does not put American lives at risk.
John Hussey is an Iraq War veteran and a member of VoteVets. He lives in St. Peters, Mo.