Using Cold War Tactics to Confront Iran

As Americans seek to find an alternative to the stark and unappetizing choice of accepting Iran's rabid leadership having nuclear weapons or pre-emptively bombing its nuclear facilities, one analyst offers a credible third path. Interestingly, it's inspired by a long-ago policy toward a different foe – the Reagan administration's ways of handling the Soviet Union – yet this unlikely model offers a useful prototype.

Abraham D. Sofaer, a former U.S. district judge and legal adviser to the State Department, now a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, argues in Taking On Iran: Strength, Diplomacy and the Iranian Threat (Hoover Institution, 2013) that since the fall of the shah during the Carter administration, Washington "has responded to Iranian aggression with ineffective sanctions and empty warnings and condemnations."

Not since 1988, he notes, has the U.S. government focused on the Iranian military force that specifically protects the country's Islamic order and most often attacks abroad, variously called the Pasdaran or Sepah in Persian and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps or IRGC in English. This roughly 125,000-strong elite force, created in 1980, has an outsized role in Iran's political and economic life. It possesses its own army, navy, and air force units, it controls ballistic missile programs, and it shares control over the country's nuclear program. It runs the Basij, which enforces strict Islamic mores on the Iranian public. Its military forces are more important than the regular armed forces. Its Quds Force of about 15,000 agents spreads the Khomeini revolution abroad via infiltration and assassination. Its graduates staff key positions in the Iranian government....

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