Trump's Syria strategy must target Assad's chief protector: Iran
The strikes ordered on April 6 by President Trump to respond to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons attack helped restore America’s credibility in the region after years of retreat. But if the president wants to really hurt Assad، he should push back against Iran، the strongman’s chief protector. Disrupting Iran’s airlifts to Syria by re-sanctioning its civil aviation sector would be a good place to start.
Even after the Iran nuclear deal reached in 2015، the United States can still use non-nuclear sanctions to counter Iran’s regional ambitions and ongoing support for terrorism. In practice، however، this measure has been rarely used، especially with regards to Iran’s ongoing airlifts to the Assad regime and Hezbollah.
Regrettably، the deal lifted U.S. aviation sanctions against Iran exactly at a time when the sector became vital to Tehran’s war efforts in Syria. Put simply: the deal has made it legal to sell aircraft to airlines that are accessories to Assad’s war crimes and keep Hezbollah armed to the teeth. The president should reverse this and bar any new aircraft from reaching Tehran until Iran stops fueling Syria’s civil war with its commercial airliners.
The activities of Iran’s aviation sector have exposed the inadequacy of the nuclear agreement’s caveat that licensed items and services must be used “exclusively for commercial passenger aviation.” Currently، at least five Iranian and two Syrian commercial airlines are engaged in regular military airlifts to Syria.
These carriers have been crisscrossing Iraqi airspace since 2011، but have increased their tempo since the summer of 2015، when Iran and Russia coordinated their efforts to save Assad’s regime. Flight tracking data indicate that، from the nuclear deal’s implementation day on Jan. 16، 2016 to March 30، 2017، there were at least 696 flights from Iran to Syria، only six of which were carried out by Iran’s air force.
Sanctions against Iran proved effective once already. It is high time the president aims them at Tehran again. The Hill