Like most Middle East nations, Iran is guilty of malign behavior—but it is weak, regionally isolated, and unable to meaningfully project power. Its undesirable local activities pose no direct threat to the United States, and it lacks the capability to cause significant disruptions to the flow of oil. The threat Iran does pose is easily checked by its more powerful neighbors. “Maximum pressure” is a risky strategy that could provoke a war instead of negotiations. Normalizing relations with Iran would enhance U.S. security, extricate the U.S. from the region’s disputes, and avoid a potentially catastrophic war.
When President Obama, without congressional authorization, ordered U.S. forces to intervene in Syria, the mission was clear: liberate ISIS-held territory. That mission has been achieved. Leaving behind U.S. forces in Syria involves large risks without any security upside: it threatens to drive adversaries into allying against the United States; to inflame Islamist-nationalist sentiments in Iraq and Syria, making U.S. forces targets; and to risk U.S. conflict with Russia, Iran, Turkey, and Syria for no good reason. Staying also ties down U.S. forces and limits their focus on core missions. With ISIS’s “caliphate” destroyed, U.S. troops have achieved all they reasonably can and should be fully withdrawn.
The Saudi-UAE-led intervention in Yemen’s civil war undermines U.S. interests: It prolongs and exacerbates a civil war that has increased Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) presence there, needlessly breeds new enemies and resentment toward the United States, and undermines U.S. standing as an exemplar of liberal values. None of our limited interests in the Middle East, and no achievable security or prosperity gains in Yemen, justify our involvement. U.S. military support for the Saudi-UAE-led coalition should end.