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end of the Cold War forced new thinking among policymakers and analysts about the greatestchalleng
es to U.S. national security. The emergence of al Qaeda, cybercriminals, and otherdang
erous entities affirmed the threat of nonstate actors. But equally daunting has been theresurg
ence of outlaw regimes—rogue states that defy international norms, fail to respect humanrig
hts and fundamental freedoms, and act against the security of the American people, U.S. alliesand partners, and the rest of the world.

among these outlaw regimes are North Korea and Iran. Their transgressions againstinternational
peace are many, but both nations are most notorious for having spent decadespursuing
nuclear weapons programs in violation of international prohibitions. DespiteW
ashington’s best efforts at diplomacy, Pyongyang hoodwinked U.S. policymakers with a stringof
broken arms control agreements going back to the George H. W. Bush administration. NorthKorea’s
nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs continued apace, to the point where afterDonald
Trump was elected, President Barack Obama told him that this would be his greatestnational
security challenge. With Iran, likewise, the deal that the Obama administration struck in2015—the
Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA—failed to end the country’s nuclearambitions.
In fact, because Iran knew that the Obama administration would prioritize preservingthe
deal over everything else, the JCPOA created a sense of impunity on the part of the regime,allowing
it to increase its support for malign activity. The deal has also given Tehran piles ofmoney
, which the supreme leader has used to sponsor all types of terrorism throughout the MiddleEast
(with few consequences in response) and which have boosted the economic fortunes of areg
ime that remains bent on exporting its revolution abroad and imposing it at home.That
the threats from North Korea and Iran grew in the post–Iraq war era has further complicatedthe
question of how best to counteract them; Americans are rightly skeptical of the costs of ap
rotracted military commitment in the name of protection from weapons of mass destruction.W
ith the difficulties of Iraq fresh in mind, and with previous agreements to restrain the threatsfrom
North Korea and Iran having proved impotent, stopping these recalcitrant regimes fromdoing

harm demands new diplomatic paradigms.E
nter President Trump. For all of the Washington establishment’s fretting over his style ofinternational
engagement, his diplomacy is anchored in a deliberate approach that gives theUnited States an advantag
e in confronting outlaw regimes.THE TRUMP DOCTRI

oth on the campaign trail and in office, President Trump has been clear about the need for boldAmerican
leadership to put the United States’ security interests first. This commonsense principlereverses
the Obama administration’s preferred posture of “leading from behind,” anaccommodationist
strategy that incorrectly signaled diminished American power and influence.L
eading from behind made North Korea a greater threat today than ever before. Leading frombehind
at best only delayed Iran’s pursuit of becoming a nuclear power, while allowing theI
slamic Republic’s malign influence and terror threat to grow.Today
, both North Korea and Iran have been put on notice that the United States will not allowtheir
destabilizing activities to go unchecked. The aggressive multinational pressure campaignthat
the United States has led against North Korea, combined with the president’s clear andunequivocal
statements that the United States will defend its vital interests with force ifnecessary
, created the conditions for the talks that culminated in President Trump’s summit withChairman
Kim Jong Un in Singapore this past June. It was there that Chairman Kim committed
the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea. North Korea has made similarcommitments
in the past, but unlike those, this was the first time there was a personal,leader-to-leader
commitment on denuclearization. That may or may not signal a major strategicshift
on the part of Chairman Kim, and we have much work to do to gauge his intentions andmake
sure his commitment is implemented. But President Trump’s approach has created ano
pportunity to peacefully resolve an issue of vital national security that has long vexedpolicy
makers. The president, our special representative for North Korea (Stephen Biegun), andI
will continue to work with clear eyes to seize this opportunity.W
ith Iran, similarly, the Trump administration is pursuing a “maximum pressure” campaignd
esigned to choke off revenues that the regime—and particularly the Islamic Revolutionary GuardCorps
(IRGC), part of Iran’s military that is directly beholden to the supreme leader—uses to fundviolence throug
h Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories, the Assad regimein
Syria, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Shiite militias in Iraq, and its own agents covertly plottingaround the world.

Yet President Trump does
not want another long-term U.S. military engagement in the MiddleEast—or
in any other region, for that matter. He has spoken openly about the dreadfulconsequences of the 2003 invasion of I
raq and the 2011 intervention in Libya. Pundits may ginup fear
over the idea that this administration will get the United States into a war, but it is clearthat
Americans have a president who, while not afraid to use military power (just ask the IslamicState,
the Taliban, or the Assad regime), is not eager to use it, either. Overwhelming militaryforce
will always be a backstop for protecting the American people, but it should not be the firstoption.
nother important aspect of the president’s diplomacy is his willingness to talk to the UnitedStates’
staunchest adversaries. As he said in July, “Diplomacy and engagement is preferable toconflict
and hostility.” Consider his approach to North Korea: his diplomacy with Chairman Kimdiffused tensions that were escalating

by the day.Complementing
the president’s willingness to engage is his instinctual aversion to bad deals. Hisunderstanding
of the importance of leverage in any negotiation eliminates the potential for deeplycounterproductive
agreements like the JCPOA. He is willing to forge agreements with U.S. rivals,but he is also comfortable walking
away from negotiations if they don’t end up furthering U.S.interests.
This is in stark contrast to the Obama administration’s approach to the JCPOA, in whichthe deal itself became an objective to be obtaine

d at all costs.W
hen considering a future North Korea deal that is superior to the JCPOA, we have describedour
objective as “the final, fully verified denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, as agreed toby
Chairman Kim Jong Un.” “Final” means that there will be no possibility that North Korea willever
restart its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs—something theJ
CPOA did not provide for with Iran. “Fully verified” means that there will be strongerverification
standards than were required under the JCPOA, which, among other weaknesses, didnot
require inspections at key Iranian military facilities. The exact contours of a North Koreaag
reement remain to be negotiated, but “final” and “fully verified” are centerpieces on which wewill not compromise.


Trump’s commitment to the American people’s security, combined with his aversion
the unnecessary use of military force and his willingness to talk to adversaries, has provideda
new framework for confronting outlaw regimes. And today, no regime has more of an outlawcharacter
than that of Iran. That has been the case since 1979, when a relatively small cadre ofI
slamic revolutionaries seized power. The regime’s revolutionary mindset has motivated itsactions
ever since—in fact, soon after its founding, the IRGC created the Quds Force, its elitespecial
forces unit, and tasked it with exporting the revolution abroad. Ever since, regime officialsh
ave subordinated all other domestic and international responsibilities, including their obligationsto the I
ranian people, to fulfilling the revolution.As
a result, over the past four decades, the regime has sown a great deal of destruction andinstability
, bad behavior that did not end with the JCPOA. The deal did not permanently preventI
ran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon—indeed, the statement in April by Iran’s top nuclear officialtha
t the country could restart its nuclear program in days suggests that it may not have delayedthat
program very much at all. Nor did the deal curtail Iran’s violent and destabilizing activity inAfg
hanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Gaza. Iran still supplies the Houthis with missilesthat
are fired at Saudi Arabia, supports Hamas’ attacks on Israel, and recruits impressionableAfg
han, Iraqi, and Pakistani youth to fight and die in Syria. Thanks to Iranian subsidies, theaverag
e Lebanese Hezbollah fighter earns two or three times per month what a fireman in Tehranbring

s home.I
n May 2018, President Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal because it was clearly notprotecting
the national security interests of the United States or our allies and partners, nor wasit
making Iran behave like a normal country. In July, an Iranian diplomat based in Vienna wasarrested
for supplying explosives to terrorists seeking to bomb a political rally in France. It istelling
that while Iran’s leaders try to convince Europe to stay in the nuclear deal, they arecovertly
plotting terrorist attacks in the heart of the continent. Taken together, Iran’s actions havemade the country
a pariah, much to the despair of its own people.THE PRESSURE CAMPAI

n place of the Iran nuclear deal, President Trump has initiated a multi-pronged pressurecampaig
n. Its first component is economic sanctions. The president recognizes the power ofsanc
tions to squeeze the regime while incurring a low opportunity cost for the United States.Under
the Trump administration, the United States has imposed 17 rounds of Iran-relatedsanctions, targ
eting 147 Iran-related individuals and entities.The g
oal of these aggressive sanctions is to force the Iranian regime to make a choice: whetherto
cease or persist in the policies that triggered the measures in the first place. Iran’s decision tocontinue
its destructive activity has already had grave economic consequences, which have beenex
acerbated by officials’ gross mismanagement in pursuit of their own self-interests. Extensivemeddling
in the economy by the IRGC, under the guise of privatization, makes doing businessin
Iran a losing proposition, and foreign investors never know whether they are facilitatingcommerce
or terrorism. Instead of using what wealth the JCPOA has generated to boost thematerial
well-being of the Iranian people, the regime has parasitically consumed it and shelledout
billions in subsidies for dictators, terrorists, and rogue militias. Iranians are understandablyfrustrated.
The rial’s value has collapsed in the past year. A third of Iranian youth areunemploy
ed. Unpaid wages are leading to rampant strikes. Fuel and water shortages are common.This
malaise is a problem of the regime’s own making. Iran’s elite resembles a Mafia in itsracketeering
and corruption. Two years ago, Iranians rightfully erupted in anger when leaked pay

showed massive amounts of money inexplicably flowing into the bank accounts of seniorg
overnment officials. For years, clerics and officials have wrapped themselves in the cloak ofrelig
ion while robbing the Iranian people blind. Today, protesters chant to the regime, “You havep
lundered us in the name of religion.” According to the London-based newspaper Kayhan,Ay
atollah Sadeq Larijani, the head of Iran’s judiciary, who the United States sanctioned this yearfor
human rights abuses, is worth at least $300 million, thanks to the embezzlement of publicfunds.
Nasser Makarem Shirazi, a grand ayatollah, is also worth many millions of dollars. Hebecame
known as “the Sultan of Sugar” for having pressured the Iranian government to lowersubsidies
to domestic sugar producers while flooding the market with his own, more expensiveimported
sugar. This type of activity puts ordinary Iranians out of work. Ayatollah MohammadEmami
Kashani, one of the leaders of Friday prayers in Tehran for the last 30 years, had theg
overnment transfer several lucrative mines to his personal foundation. He, too, is now worthmillions.
The corruption goes all the way to the top. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah AliKhamenei,
has his own personal, off-the-books hedge fund called the Setad, which is worth $95billion. That
untaxed and ill-gotten wealth, often earned by expropriating the assets of politicaland
religious minorities, is used as a slush fund for the IRGC. In other words, Iran’s leading holyman captains the kind of plundering
characteristic of Third World strongmen.The
regime’s greed has created a chasm between the people of Iran and their leaders, making itdifficult
for officials to credibly persuade young Iranians to be the vanguard of the next generationof
the revolution. The theocratic ayatollahs can preach “Death to Israel” and “Death to America”day
and night, but they cannot mask their rank hypocrisy. Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreignminister,
has degrees from San Francisco State University and the University of Denver, and AliA
kbar Velayati, the supreme leader’s top adviser, studied at Johns Hopkins University. Khameneihimself
is chauffeured around in a BMW, even as he calls for the Iranian people to buy goodsmade
in Iran. This phenomenon is similar to what occurred in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and1980s,
when the spirit of 1917 began to ring hollow on account of the hypocrisy of its champions.The
Politburo could no longer with a straight face tell Soviet citizens to embrace communismwhen
Soviet officials were themselves secretly peddling smuggled blue jeans and Beatles records.I
ran’s leaders—especially those at the top of the IRGC, such as Qasem Soleimani, the head of theQuds
Force—must be made to feel the painful consequences of their violence and corruption.Given
that the regime is controlled by a desire for self-enrichment and a revolutionary ideologyfrom
which it will not easily depart, sanctions must be severe if they are to change entrenchedhabits.
That’s why the Trump administration is reimposing U.S. sanctions that were lifted orwaived as part of the nuclear deal; the first
of these went back into effect on August 7, with theremainder
coming back on November 5. We intend to get global imports of Iranian crude oil asclose
to zero as possible by November 4. As part of our campaign to crush the Iranian regime’sterrorist
financing, we have also worked with the United Arab Emirates to disrupt a currencyex
change network that was transferring millions of dollars to the Quds Force. The United Statesis
asking every nation that is sick and tired of the Islamic Republic’s destructive behavior to standup
for the Iranian people and join our pressure campaign. Our efforts will be ably led by our newspecial representative for I

ran, Brian Hook.Economic
pressure is one part of the U.S. campaign. Deterrence is another. President Trumpbelieves
in clear measures to discourage Iran from restarting its nuclear program or continuingits
other malign activities. With Iran and other countries, he has made it clear that he will nottolerate
attempts to bully the United States; he will punch back hard if U.S. security is threatened.Chairman
Kim has felt this pressure, and he would never have come to the table in Singapore

it. The president’s own public communications themselves function as a deterrencemechanism.
The all-caps tweet he directed at Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in July, in whichhe
instructed Iran to stop threatening the United States, was informed by a strategic calculation:the
Iranian regime understands and fears the United States’ military might. In September, militiasin
Iraq launched life-threatening rocket attacks against the U.S. embassy compound in Baghdadand
the U.S. consulate in Basra. Iran did not stop these attacks, which were carried out by proxiesit
has supported with funding, training, and weapons. The United States will hold the regime inTehran
accountable for any attack that results in injury to our personnel or damage to ourfacilities. America will respond swiftly
and decisively in defense of American lives.W
e do not seek war. But we must make painfully clear that escalation is a losing proposition forI
ran; the Islamic Republic cannot match the United States’ military prowess, and we are not afraidto let I

ran’s leaders know it.I

critical component of the U.S. pressure campaign against Iran is a commitment toex
posing the regime’s brutality. Outlaw authoritarian regimes fear nothing more than having thelid
blown off their true workings. The Trump administration will continue to reveal the regime’si
llicit revenue streams, malign activities, crooked self-dealing, and savage oppression. The Iranianpeople
themselves deserve to know the grotesque level of self-interest that fuels the regime’sactions.
Khamenei and his ilk would not be able to tolerate the domestic and international outragethat
would ensue if everything they were up to came to light. Beginning last year, protesters havetaken
to the street saying, “Leave Syria, think about us!” and “The people are paupers while themullahs live like g
ods!” The United States stands with the Iranian people.U.S.
President Ronald Reagan understood the power of exposure when he cast the Soviet Unionas
“an evil empire.” By throwing a spotlight on the regime’s abuses, he was pledging solidaritywith
a people who had long suffered under communism. It is likewise for the sake of the Iranianpeople
that the Trump administration has not been afraid to expose the regime’s mercilessdomes
tic repression. The regime is so wedded to certain ideological principles—including thee
xport of the Islamic Revolution through proxy warfare and the subversion of fellowMuslim-majority
countries, implacable opposition to Israel and the United States, and stringentsocial
controls that restrict the rights of women—that it cannot endure any competing ideas.Hence,
it has for decades denied its own people human rights, dignity, and fundamental freedoms.That
is why in May, for example, Iranian police arrested Maedeh Hojabri, a teenage gymnast, forposting

an Instagram video of herself dancing.T
he regime’s views on women are particularly retrograde. Since the revolution, women have beenrequired
to wear the hijab, and as enforcement, government morality police beat women in thestreets
and arrest those who refuse to comply. Recent protests against this policy on female dressshow
that it has failed, and Khamenei surely must know it. Yet in July, an activist was sentencedto 20 y
ears in prison for removing her hijab.The
regime also regularly arrests religious or ethnic minorities, including Bahais, Christians, andGonabadi
dervishes, when they speak out in support of their rights. Untold numbers of Iraniansare
tortured and die in Evin Prison—a place no kinder than the basement of the Lubyanka, thedreaded
headquarters of the kgb. Those imprisoned include several innocent Americans detainedon spurious charg
es, victims of the regime’s use of hostage taking as a tool of foreign policy.
eginning last December, demonstrators took to the streets of Tehran, Karaj, Isfahan, Arak, andmany
other cities to peacefully call for a better life. In response, the regime welcomed in the newy
ear in January by arbitrarily arresting up to 5,000 of them. Hundreds reportedly remain behindbars,
and more than a dozen are dead at the hands of their own government. The leaders cynicallycall these deaths suicide.
t is in keeping with the character of the United States that we expose these abuses. As PresidentReag
an said in a speech at Moscow State University in 1988, “Freedom is the recognition thatno
single person, no single authority or government, has a monopoly on the truth, but that everyindividual
life is infinitely precious, that every one of us put on this world has been put there fora
reason and has something to offer.” In May, the Trump administration enumerated 12 areas inwhich
Iran must make progress if there is to be any change in our relationship, including fullyhal
ting its uranium enrichment, providing a full account of the prior military dimensions of itsnuclear
program, ending its proliferation of ballistic missiles and provocative missile launches,releasing
imprisoned U.S. citizens, ending its support for terrorism, and more.President
Trump has made clear that the pressure will only increase if Iran does not live up to thestandards
the United States and its partners and allies—and the Iranian people themselves—wantto see. That is why
Washington is also demanding that Tehran make substantial improvementson
human rights. As the president has consistently said, he remains open to talks. But as is thecase
with North Korea, the United States will continue its pressure campaign until Irandemonstrates
tangible and sustained shifts in its policies. If Iran makes those shifts, the possibilityo
f a new comprehensive agreement will greatly increase. We think a deal with the regime ispossible.
In the absence of one, Iran will face increasing costs for all its reckless and violentactivity

around the world.President
Trump prefers not to conduct this campaign alone; he wants U.S. allies and partners onboard.
Indeed, other countries already share a common understanding of the threat Iran posesbey
ond its nuclear aspirations. French President Emmanuel Macron has said, “It is important toremain
firm with Iran over its regional activities and its ballistic program”; British Prime MinisterTheresa
May has said that she is “clear-eyed about the threat that Iran poses to the Gulf and thewider
Middle East.” This widespread agreement about the Iranian threat leaves no room forcountries
to remain ambivalent about whether to join the global effort to change Iran’s behavior,an effort that is big

and getting bigger.THE POW

Trump inherited a world in some ways as dangerous as the one faced by the UnitedStates
on the eve of World War I, the one right before World War II, or that during the height ofthe
Cold War. But his disruptive boldness, first on North Korea and now on Iran, has shown howmuch
progress can be made by marrying clarity of conviction with an emphasis on nuclearnonproliferation
and strong alliances. President Trump’s actions in confronting outlaw regimesstem from the belief that moral confrontation le

ads to diplomatic conciliation.T
his was the blueprint for one of the great foreign policy triumphs of the last century: theAmerican
victory in the Cold War. In the first week of his presidency, President Reagan describedSoviet
leaders, saying, “The only morality they recognize is what will further their cause, meaningthey
reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat.” Foreign policyanaly
sts derided his comments, believing their candor would hinder progress toward peace. Butthe
president had also emphasized a commitment to negotiate with the Soviets, a fact that went

ely ignored. President Reagan’s combination of moral clarity and diplomatic acuity laid theg
roundwork for the 1986 talks in Reykjavik and, later, the downfall of Soviet communism itself.Those
who still bow to the same totemic conviction that candor impedes negotiations mustrecog
nize the effect that targeted rhetorical and practical pressure have had—and are having—onoutlaw
regimes. At the rate that the Iranian economy is declining and protests are intensifying,it should be clear to the I
ranian leadership that negotiations are the best way forward.


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