“Trump is witnessing an unfolding Iranian revolution — time to act” by Ivan Sascha Sheehan and Raymond Tanter

“Trump is witnessing an unfolding Iranian revolution — time to act”

By Ivan Sascha Sheehan and Raymond Tanter

As 2018 begins, several large metropolitan centers in Iran are ablaze with major anti-government demonstrations roaring in the streets.

Protestors are chanting slogans indicative of a revolution: “Death to the dictator,” “Death to (Hassan) Rouhani,” “Don’t be afraid, we are all together,” “Forget about Syria, think about us,” “Not Gaza, nor Lebanon, my life for Iran.”

After multiple days of demonstrations spread to Tehran, President Rouhani said Iranians are “free to protest but must not jeopardize security.”

Around the world many are asking whether the Arab uprisings have given way to a Persian Revolution, while analysts in Washington are wondering whether 2018 will bring regime change to Tehran.


The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its leading constituent group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), have played a key role in organizing the major protests in Iran for decades. Their intricate network inside Iran has been critical to informing the world of Tehran’s malign behavior from nuclear pursuits to terrorism and human rights abuses to proxy violence.

Scholars understand regime change by the people of Iran is within reach but is best achieved by those in the resistance with the organizing capacity, determination, and political wherewithal to achieve it. The White House has all the necessary elements to assist the Iranian people in bringing about the democratic change they seek: capability, credibility, and an organized opposition to facilitate regime change from within.

Neither President Bush nor President Obama backed the Iranian people when they rose up to change the government in Tehran following protests during their respective tenures. President Trump, therefore, has an opportunity to make history.

Trump can and should take decisive action in 2018 to support the ouster of the virulently anti-American theocracy that has ruled Iran with an iron fist and threatened its  neighbors for the past four decades.

On Dec. 31, 2017, Sen. Lindsey Graham appeared on CBS “Face the Nation,” Graham said, “President Trump should embrace the anti-regime protests currently engulfing Iran…”

When asked by host Major Garrett if he had shared these views with the president personally, Graham responded, “I just did.”

The president should follow Graham’s lead and throw American support behind the brave anti-government protesters who have taken to the streets in mass demonstrations across the Islamic Republic since last week. The U.S. State Department announced December 29 that we:

“Strongly condemn the arrest of peaceful protesters. We urge all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption.”

Trump suggests a credible threat to support the Iranian people and their organized resistance is at hand. In his recent tweet on the issue, Trump said Iranians were, “finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth (are) being stolen and squandered on terrorism,” and “the USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!”

The Way Forward

Our scholarship indicates that, as a political gesture, Trump’s formal recognition of the Iranian people’s right to regime change and the legitimacy of the organized resistance could help to further tip the balance in favor of those seeking democratic change in Iran.

Our research also suggests contrary to the rhetoric of Iran’s rulers, the Iranian public is predisposed to democracy, seeks civil and political freedoms, and wants positive relations with Western powers. The Iranian people, therefore, represent an important potential ally for the United States in efforts to improve the stability of the Middle East.

Trump can cite the ongoing demonstrations as evidence that Iranian lives have not improved since the 2015 nuclear agreement that lifted worldwide economic sanctions against Iran in return for actions designed to halt the nation’s development of nuclear weapons. Only Iranian companies linked to the government and the Revolutionary Guard have reaped the rewards of reopened international trade, while the Iranian people face increasingly dire economic circumstances.

Regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Syria learned the hard way that mass demonstrations in the context of discontent are infectious. The demonstrations facing the Iranian regime — already fearful of protest — are an opportunity to use the people’s resentment as leverage to achieve significant political change. As Trump noted in his remarks to the United Nations, the Iranian people are the biggest threat to the regime.

Finally, the expansion of protests constitute a crisis for the regime and an opportunity to use the people’s resentment as leverage against it. The Obama administration squandered valuable opportunities in the past — most notably during the 2009 antigovernment protests in Iran, which were backed up by the NCRI, when Western powers turned a blind eye to the regime’s brutal crackdown.

It is time for this situation to change. If not now, when? The accelerating crisis is an opportunity to change the regime from within. The Iranian people are in the streets to make a revolution happen.

Prof. Ivan Sascha Sheehan is director of the graduate programs in Global Affairs and Human Security and Negotiations and Conflict Management in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter @ProfSheehan.

Prof. Raymond Tanter served as a senior member on the Middle East Desk of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration, personal representative of the secretary of Defense to international security and arms control talks in Europe, and is now professor emeritus at the University of Michigan. Follow him on Twitter @AmericanCHR.



“Iran Protests Should Prompt Update of Trump Policy, Nuclear Deal”

By Raymond Tanter and Ivan Sascha Sheehan


“This time, we will not be silent on Iran”
— Vice President Mike Pence

Vice President Mike Pence’s unwillingness to be silent on the persecution of the Iranian people by Iran’s repressive security forces distinguishes Team Trump from Team Obama and signals a willingness to stand with their freedom-seeking friends in Iran during an hour of perilous danger.

The expansion of protests in Iran constitutes a crisis for the Iranian regime and an opportunity to use the people’s resentment as leverage against it. The Obama administration squandered valuable opportunities in the past — most notably during the 2009 anti-government protests in Iran, which were backed up by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), when Western powers turned a blind eye to the regime’s brutal crackdowns. Now is time for the Trump administration to break with the past and move in new direction. The accelerating crisis in Iran marks an opportunity to change the Iranian regime from within. The Iranian people are in the streets to make their revolution happen and they need the moral support of the West.

Among the factors distinguishing today’s protests from 2009 is the increasing use of smartphones in Iran. Scholars understand that the devices can be dangerous instruments for revolutionary change, per BBC, which contrasts the 2009 protests with those in 2017-2018.

“In 2009 — when an estimated 2 million to 3 million Iranians protested silently in Tehran — fewer than 1 million Iranians owned such a device, and few outside Tehran. Today, an astonishing 48 million Iranians are thought to have smartphones, all of them equipped with social media and communication apps,” per Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment on Dec. 31.

BBC cites in 2009, when millions of people took to the streets, “there were some 55m mobile subscriptions in Iran.” “Today, there are more than 80m mobile subscriptions and 41 percent of households are estimated to have access to at least one smartphone.”

By expressing strong support for the protestors, President Trump and others in his administration have seized on anti-government protests raging in the streets as vindication of his critique of the Obama administration’s approach to Iran’s Ayatollahs.

Trump sees the Iran protests as an occasion for both a win on the world stage and an opportunity to lay a glove on one of President Barack Obama’s greatest mistakes — the failure to support the demonstrators in 2009, when millions of Iranians flooded the streets to protest the dubious reelection of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. “Unlike during the previous administration, this President is not afraid to call out a brutal regime undermining basic human rights,” said a White House spokesman, Raj Shah. “The Trump administration is contemplating further action to support the Iranian people.”

The protests, security crackdowns, and potential for regime change from within, present an occasion for a new Iran Policy Review (IPT), a reassessment of the National Security Strategy (NSS), and a discussion of whether the president should recertify or withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal. We view the IPT, NSS, and the Nuclear Deal as out-of-date and believe that they should modified in light of ongoing protests. The potential for revolution in Iran means all bets are off for the IPT, NSS, and the U.S. must now closely scrutinize the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran.

Iran Policy Review

The January decision on what to do about Iran arrives as the Trump administration reviews its overall strategy in the region. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster plans to rollout results of a Syria Policy Review this month. There also needs to be a new Iran Policy Review. In contrast to our finding, a colleague, Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, commented on Dec. 28, in an article on the Iran nuclear deal without discussing protests in Iran. In his defense, Dubowitz may have made his remarks prior to news of the protests, which began the same day.

National Security Strategy

On Oct. 13, 2017, President Trump announced his Iran National Security Strategy (NSS). Key elements included a focus on the Iranian people: it stated that Iran is under the control of a fanatical regime that seized power in 1979 and forced a proud people to submit to extremist rule.

Furthermore, the U.S. is far from the only target of the Iranian dictatorship’s long campaign of bloodshed. The regime violently suppresses its own citizens; it after all shot unarmed student protestors in the street during 2009 protests resulting from the “reelection” of Ahmadinejad.

Finally, the execution of our strategy begins with the long-overdue step of imposing tough sanctions on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Revolutionary Guard is the Iranian Supreme Leader’s corrupt personal terror force and militia. It has hijacked large portions of Iran’s economy and seized massive religious endowments to fund war and terror abroad, which brings us to the nuclear deal.

Nuclear Deal with Iran

On Jan. 15, President Trump must decide what he wants to do with the Iran nuclear accord. In October, Trump gave Congress and our European partners three months to strengthen provisions in the JCPOA, before deciding whether he would sign a waiver that would continue the freeze on U.S. sanctions.

Dubowitz said on Dec. 28, that the president would keep the nuclear deal separate from his views about the protests. “It’s entirely possible that Trump tells Congress and the Europeans, ‘I gave you 90 days to get your act together and you didn’t — and I’m done.’”

On the other hand, we find that demonstrations are a signal that the tide is turning against the Iranian regime. Likewise, on Jan. 3, Omri Ceren of The Israel Project reports a bipartisan array of U.S. lawmakers is throwing its support behind Iranian protesters marching against the regime, in the most turbulent unrests in the Islamic Republic since 2009.

The president seems inclined to this view when he tweeted, “The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime,” and “the people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!”

The Way Forward

First, our analysis suggests that organizations and states helping Tehran’s repressive apparatus — including those providing censorship technology — should face censure from Washington. Michael Singh, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who studies Iran, told The National that protests underscore President Trump’s critique of the Iranian regime, which on Jan. 2, he described as “brutal and corrupt.” Vice President Mike Pence echoed the president’s sentiment in a tweet: “The bold and growing resistance of the Iranian people today gives hope and faith to all who struggle for freedom and against tyranny. We must not, and we will not let them down.”

Second, we find Washington should at least provide moral support to assist peaceful protests, especially ways to help Iranians communicate with one another as the regime restricts the Internet. On Oct. 11, prior to the Oct. 28 beginning of the demonstrations, Rep. Ed Royce, (R-Calif.), said, “As flawed as the deal is, I believe we must now enforce the hell out of it,” Royce said at a committee hearing on Iran, per The Hill.

Our research finds the views of Chairman Royce have been reinforced by the demonstrations, expanding from the rural area into the urban cities, and finally to Tehran. It would be like starting in a “Reddish” U.S. territory that supported Trump, such as its capital, Frankfort, Kentucky, and moving to Louisville, e.g., the Tehran of Iran.

Third, the Iran Policy Review, National Security Strategy, and the Nuclear Deal are out-of-date. They must be reassessed and changed in consideration of the demonstrations, and subsequent violence by security forces against protestors.

Our research finds the potential for revolution in Iran means the regime is on its knees. This is not the time to compromise with Tehran. This is the time to press ahead for regime change from within. Iranian Americans are holding a “Rally to Support the #IranProtests” in front of the White House on Dec. 6 from 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm, and our research suggests American supporters should join in support of the Iranian people and their efforts to topple the regime in Tehran.

Prof. Raymond Tanter (@AmericanCHR) served as a senior member on the Middle East Desk of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration, Personal Representative of the Secretary of Defense to international security and arms control talks in Europe, and is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan. Tanter is on the comprehensive list of conservative writers and columnists who appear in The Wall Street Journal, Townhall.com, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Human Events, The American Spectator, and now in Newsmax. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

Prof. Ivan Sascha Sheehan is director of the graduate programs in Global Affairs and Human Security and Negotiations and Conflict Management in the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter @ProfSheehan.


“Trump Must Call Out Iran’s Abuses in Wake of Jerusalem Speech” by Raymond Tanter

Trump Must Call Out Iran’s Abuses in Wake of Jerusalem Speech

By Raymond Tanter

December 12, 2017

“I turn to you President Trump, on behalf of the city of Jerusalem, the beating heart and soul of the Jewish people for more than 3,000 years,” Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat said, standing in front of the White House. “I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your commitment and intention to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” perHaaretz, Dec. 8, 2017.

Bottom Line Up Front

The statement by the mayor is a good point of departure to discuss President Trump’s speech on Jerusalem, which may be the Goldilocks of his foreign policy: He hit the right spot on Dec. 6, and it is a shot across the bow of Tehran, which calls Jerusalem Al Quds.

The Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC-QF), focuses on foreign operations, like liberating Jerusalem from the Jews. Suppressing the Iranian people is the main responsibility of the Basij, literally “mobilization.” It is a paramilitary organization charged with channeling popular support for the Iranian regime, per the Counter Extremism Project.

President Trump stated in his December 6, speech, “Jerusalem is today, and must remain, a place where Jews pray at the Western Wall, where Christians walk the Stations of the Cross, and where Muslims worship at Al-Aqsa Mosque.”

In addition to President Trump and the Mayor of Jerusalem, consider the remarks of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. She stated,

“The United States has not taken a position on boundaries or borders. The specific dimensions of sovereignty over Jerusalem are still to be decided by the Israelis and the Palestinians in negotiations. Finally, and critically, the United States is not predetermining final status issues. We remain committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement. We support a two-state solution if agreed to by the parties.”

The significance of these statements is threefold. First, the Mayor of Jerusalem: emotion; second, Trump, religion; and third, Haley, facts.

Yours truly taught 6 times at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and lectured on the West Bank, as well as throughout the Arab world; he was on the NSC staff Middle East desk has a feel for most aspects of the statements above.

Trump’s speech puts into deep-freeze the audacious plans for a division of the city, which were on the table, during the tenures of Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, per the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs of Dec. 8. And its president, Dore Gold, testified before the U.S. Congress Committee on Oversight and Government Reform: “On a political level, the denial of recognition helps fuel the dangerous fantasy, popular in the Middle East, that Israel is impermanent and illegitimate.”

Concurring with Gold, the bottom line of this post is that the so-called “Palestinian rage” is for only one reason: Because Israel exists as a normal state.

How Normal are Jerusalem and Tehran?

Iran is not a normal state like Israel. Iran has trappings of being normal, when, in fact, the regime is anything but ordinary. Per the State Department, Iran is the world’s leading state-sponsor of international terrorism, specializes in detaining political prisoners at home, all while its Western-trained diplomats dupe major powers with their suave manners and near-perfect English.

In contrast to Iran, Israel is a normal country. But, tongue-in-cheek, David Gerstman asked on Dec. 8, “If Israel were a normal country, having the United States place its embassy in its capital city would not be newsworthy.”

Meanwhile, in a rally on Dec. 8, “Hundreds Protest Against U.S. Jerusalem Move in Times Square,” headlined the coverage by NBC News. But, is Times Square really being rocked by demonstrations? Not so fast! There may have been more reporters covering protests than demonstrators. And there were more onlookers than demonstrators, after the terrorist attack by the Port Authority bomber on Dec. 11. And it seems he was inspired to repeat the Islamic State Christmas Attacks of the past, instead of being outraged by Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel.

And what about Jerusalem: Is the “City of Peace” really on fire, due to rioting Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza? No, Jerusalem is not burning. (The Epistle to the Hebrews points out that “Salem,” the title of Melchizedek’s City, means ‘peace’ (Gen. 14:18; Heb. 7:2).

On Dec. 10, a Muslim commentator, Bassam Tawilholds in an article, “Jerusalem Not on Fire,” that there were more journalists than protesters. The Palestinians declared a three-day-long “rage” spree over President Trump’s announcement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Thus far, however, it appears as if the real anger is showing up in the Main Street Media, not on the Palestinian Street.

Despite the lack of fiery protests, there is a need to address issues raised by President Trump’s decision for the United States to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The Way Forward

First, President Trump: Task Secretary of State Tillerson to make the U.S. Consulate in East Jerusalem the American Embassy; and the present U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv would become our Consulate. This action might reduce the pressure on you from worldwide condemnations occurring now.

Second, President Trump: Often repeat Amb. Haley’s statement, “United States is not predetermining final status issues. We remain committed to achieving a lasting peace agreement. We support a two-state solution if agreed to by the parties.”

Again, Mr. President, such action would provide cover for Arab regimes to reduce the drumbeat of condemnation of you. It also would curry favor of European allies like Berlin, Paris, and the United Kingdom, which oppose your recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel.

Third, and this point is the most important: Mr. President, deflect attention away from Jerusalem by calling attention to human rights abuses of Tehran. Your NSC staff is aware Iran specializes in detaining political prisoners, as evidenced by the following volume, and as stated on Dec. 10 in “Human Rights Day and Iran’s Suppression.” A book by the National Council of Resistance of Iran is “Iran: Where Mass Murderers Rule: The 1988 Massacre of 30,000 Political Prisoners and the Continuing Atrocities.”

In short, Mr. President, your pursuit of steps penned in this post might assist in helping the parties pursue a negotiated settlement regarding the Jerusalem issue. Without such moves, we all are doomed to live with breaking news about the Middle East toward the threat of wars that serve none of the parties’ interests, values, or goals.

Prof. Raymond Tanter (@AmericanCHR) served as a senior member on the Middle East Desk of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration, Personal Representative of the Secretary of Defense to international security and arms control talks in Europe, and is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan. Tanter is on the comprehensive list of conservative writers and columnists who appear in The Wall Street Journal, Townhall.com, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Human Events, The American Spectator, and now in Newsmax.


Followed up by this information from the N.Y. Post:


Nikki Haley shows ‘concrete’ proof Iran broke missile agreement

On Thursday December 14, 2017:

“US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Thursday showed “concrete” proof that Iran is violating UN resolutions by supplying weapons to a rebel group in Yemen.

“In this warehouse is concrete evidence of illegal Iranian weapons proliferation, gathered from direct military attacks on partners in the region,” she said, standing in front of a charred ballistic missile the size of a car during a press conference at Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling in Washington, DC.”




Iran Nuclear Development Program – Part 1 of 6 by MG Paul Vallely U.S. Army (ret.)







Iran Nuclear Development Program – Part 1

Nouri Industry and Hemmat Industrial Group*

            Just being released ………via Stand Up America US (MG Paul Vallely)

The project to actively pursue production of nuclear warheads is conducted in Khojir by the Hemmat Industrial Group. Khojir is a completely secured and vast region southeast of Tehran, covering an area of 120 square kilometers.

Construction of secret military sites in this location began in 1989 upon Khamenei’s orders. The location primarily works on the manufacturing of ballistic missiles such as the Shahab 3. The project to manufacture nuclear warheads is called Alireza Nouri (Nuri) Industry which is one of the industrial branches of the Hemmat Missile Industrial Group.

Due to extreme sensitivity of manufacturing nuclear warheads, Nouri Industry has its own security and military police; individuals who have clearance to other parts of Khojir site are not allowed to go to this section. According to reliable reports, scores of large underground tunnels have been constructed in this military complex. The availability of several underground tunnels provides the possibility and flexibility of covering up the activities of the warhead project, or transferring it to a different location in the complex.

The warheads are being designed for installation on Shahab 3 missiles. The most advanced version of Shahab 3 has a range of 2,000 kilometers.

Dr. Mehdi Naghian is a key figure in this project. An expert with computers and electronics, he oversees designs for the construction of a nuclear warhead. Dozens of other experts, including experts in the fields of aerodynamics, structure and electronics work with him.

North Korean experts cooperate with the regime’s experts  in this project and have provided significant assistance in the project’s progress. The NK experts have been particularly helpful in designing the aerodynamics aspect and the shape of the warhead. //////////

End of this first edition of the intel report………………

*Published and authorized by National Council of Resistance of Iran



“There is nothing strategic about Trump’s Afghanistan policy” by Lawrence Sellin



There is nothing strategic about Trump’s Afghanistan policy

by Lawrence Sellin, PHD. September 18, 2017

While accepting billions of American dollars in military and economic aid, Pakistan has been slowly bleeding the U.S. to death in Afghanistan through its support of the Taliban, Haqqani Network and other terrorist groups.

It is Pakistan’s role to force the U.S. and NATO out of Afghanistan to pave the way for regional dominance of its closest ally, China.

China is, quite literally, colonizing Pakistan.

Through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China aims to connect Asia, the Middle East and Africa through land-based and maritime economic zones as part of China’s global ambition to overtake the U.S. as the world’s leading superpower.

One element of that effort is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), an infrastructure and development project, the backbone of which is a transportation network connecting China to the Pakistani seaports of Gwadar and Karachi located on the Arabian Sea.

Although profitable for China, Pakistan has not fared as well under CPEC:

“After the Free Trade Agreement was signed, Pakistan’s trade deficit with China widened further as exports to China fell to $1.62 billion in 2016-17 from $2.69bn in 2013-14 and imports from China, in contrast showed an alarming increase of 123 per cent, growing from $4.73bn in 2012-13 to $10.53bn in 2016-17.”

Some Pakistani politicians have described CPEC as the Chinese version of the British East India company, which, at its height, had private army of about 260,000 and even the father of capitalism, Adam Smith, found its conquest, subjugation and plunder of the subcontinent distasteful.

According to a recent report, Chinese aspirations in Pakistan are not just about profits, but resemble the colonization of South Asia by the East India Company:

“The plan envisages a deep and broad-based penetration of most sectors of Pakistan’s economy as well as its society by Chinese enterprises and culture. Its scope has no precedent in Pakistan’s history in terms of how far it opens up the domestic economy to participation by foreign enterprises.”

“For instance, thousands of acres of agricultural land will be leased out to Chinese enterprises to set up ‘demonstration projects’ in areas ranging from seed varieties to irrigation technology. A full system of monitoring and surveillance will be built in cities from Peshawar to Karachi, with 24 hour video recordings on roads and busy marketplaces for law and order. A national fibreoptic backbone will be built for the country not only for internet traffic, but also terrestrial distribution of broadcast TV, which will cooperate with Chinese media in the ‘dissemination of Chinese culture’.”

In addition to the already 30,000 Chinese workers in Pakistan, CPEC calls for visa-free entry of Chinese into Pakistan and the establishment of “civil armed forces” to protect Chinese investments and “a coastal enjoyment industry that includes yacht wharfs, cruise homeports, nightlife, city parks, public squares, theaters, golf courses and spas, hot spring hotels and water sports” built for the Chinese under CPEC.

The expansion of the port of Gwadar and its international airport will include a concomitant increase in Chinese residents, estimated to reach 20,000, which may be a prelude to the establishment Chinese regional military facilities. A base in Gwadar at the mouth of the Persian Gulf would complement the Chinese base in Djibouti at entrance of the Red Sea, both strategic choke points.

So, while the U.S. is expending more blood and treasure in Afghanistan and Pakistan continues to regulate our progress there by controlling the battle tempo and the supply of our troops, China is successfully pursuing its geopolitical interests in South Asia, which will eventually include Afghanistan.

By choosing the wrong policy in Afghanistan, there is no end to what the U.S. can’t accomplish strategically.

Here’s a hint – you reach the Taliban through Pakistan and you reach Pakistan through China.


Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired colonel with 29 years of service in the US Army Reserve and a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq.




Confronting North Korea by changing the dynamics. By James A. Lyons, Admiral USN (ret).


Confronting North Korea by changing the dynamics.

Withdrawing U.S. military dependents from the South would signal seriousness

By James A. Lyons, Admiral USN (ret).



On July 4, North Korea successfully test-fired the equivalent of an intercontinental ballistic missile with the potential to hit not only our regional allies but Alaska as well. Leading up to the latest test, President Trump, regrettably, has followed the path of the five previous administrations, believing that cozying up to China’s communist government would be helpful in reining in North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. By now, everyone should understand that will never happen. Let’s be clear: There would be no North Korean nuclear weapons program if it were not for China and Russia. Further, North Korea is the off-site laboratory and test site for Iran’s nuclear program.

Relying on China to rein in North Korea’s nuclear program has not only been a dismal failure, but a serious strategic mistake. Mr. Trump needs to stop listening to the Obama holdovers and other “undercover agents” for strategic advice. We should certainly understand by now that China’s strategic objectives include a nuclear-armed North Koreaas a way to lessen U.S. influence not only in South Korea but, ultimately, throughout the Western Pacific. Never forget — China is seeking total hegemony throughout the first island chain, which includes Taiwan and, eventually, the second island chain, which includes Guam, our main support base.

With those clear objectives, China is not about to hand us a victory on the Korean Peninsula without strong actions on our part. The fact that North Korea’s latest missile test was fired from a 16-wheel, road-mobile, transporter-erector-launcher supplied by China should have been particularly galling to Mr. Trump. According to Japanese reports, there are eight China-supplied launchers in North Korea. To rub salt in the wound, both China and Russia issued a joint statement on the day of the North Korean test, proposing to resolve the problem by having North Korea freeze its nuclear and ballistic missile testing (no dismantlement), provided the United States abandons large-scale joint exercises with South Korea.


There is simply no equivalence here. These defensive exercises have been a key component of maintaining peace and stability for the past 50 years. Why would we change? Ending these exercises has been a long-term China objective, which Beijing knows is a non-starter. Further, the fact that both China and Russia were able to issue a joint statement on the day of the test indicates that they most likely had advance notification.

On July 6, left-wing, newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in, following up on his campaign rhetoric, proposed more dialogue with North Korea and said that he is prepared to meet Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader. He also extended an olive branch by calling for more economic cooperation and a resumption of family reunions. Regrettably, Mr. Moon doesn’t get it: You don’t reward a totalitarian regime for bad behavior. As we have seen many times, such conciliatory gestures are viewed only as a sign of weakness.

According to a July 7 Wall Street Journal article, the Trump administration plans to give diplomacy and economic sanctions more time to resolve the crisis with North Korea. With China, Russia and Iran ignoring the economic sanctions, though, there will be no change in North Korea’s violation of U.N. sanctions. When speaking in Warsaw with Polish President Andrzej Duda, however, Mr. Trump stated that he was considering “some pretty severe things,” which certainly could imply military action. Previously, the president has stated that since China has failed to help solve the problem, we will have to do it ourselves.

As we have seen over the years, successful diplomacy must have strong, recognized military options. It was “peace through strength” that was key to winning the Cold War against the Soviet Union. Under the current circumstances, without a dramatic change in the dynamics controlling the crisis with North Korea, more diplomatic discussions and potential talks with North Korea like the previous Six Party Talks, will also fail.

To put substance into our past declarations that “all options are being considered,” a dramatic, dynamic change must be introduced into the Korean equation. Accordingly, it is proposed that we plan to withdraw all U.S. military dependents from South Korea. This will not only remove a “hostage force” from the South Korean environment, but would also upset both China and North Korea’s calculations on what further actions are we planning to take. Certainly, it would provide us the freedom to plan a range of military options.

During the time it would take to remove all U.S. military dependents from South Korea, we should begin to massively reinforce our forces in the Western Pacific. This should include two or three attack carrier strike groups as well as four Air Force bomber squadrons, and up to 24 fighter squadrons with accompanying support forces. We should also plan to reintroduce tactical nuclear weapons into South Korea as well as on our forward-deployed submarines. A crash program to provide cruise-missile arsenal ships should also be part of the buildup.


Coordination with our allies will need to be factored into our overall planning. In that sense, an expanded military equipment package for Taiwan should also be planned. The unambiguous message that we would be sending is that we will not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea. It must dismantle its nuclear program or be destroyed.

  • James A. Lyons, U.S. Navy retired admiral, was commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.