by Frank Ryan | June 27, 2019

The tensions in the Middle East have been escalating in the past few months.  In reality, the tensions have been extraordinarily high in that area for a millennium and for the United States for centuries.

The United States Marine Corps hymn starts with the expression: “From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli….”  Tripoli is in the Middle East and, in the history of the Marine Corps, 1st Lt. Presley O’Bannon was presented with a Mamaluke sword that serves as the Marine Corps officer sword today.

The tensions in the Middle East reflect life in general. The difference today versus in the past two decades is, that like President Thomas Jefferson at the time of Barbary pirates’ excursions, we now have a president in Donald Trump who is willing to bring the problem to the forefront and confront it head on.

Recently, Iran downed a United States drone and attacked ships in the Gulf of Oman. This is not significantly different than what Pres. Jefferson experienced except that the lethality of the weapons used today are more severe.

President Trump’s policies in the Middle East are precisely what is needed at a most critical time.  His signaling of his intent to launch strikes against Iran, reconsidering, and then launching a coordinated sanctions attack reflect a well thought out strategy.

The President’s actions against Iran are an extension of the strategy he employed in his successful campaign against ISIS at the beginning of his Administration.

Trump’s economic sanctions against Iran have an impact on the Ayatollah’s $200 billion portfolio. It will hurt. It will send a message.

During the Obama Administration, bombing a target was considered “the strategy”.  Bombing is a tactic and not a strategy. Bombing may make someone feel that they have taken decisive action but it shows weakness.  Its weakness is that bombing is a discrete operation with no long-term consequences to a people who are willing to fight a war for a millennium.

The Trump Administration took the bold step of changing direction and providing clear insight to foreign powers that we have a strategic intent and we will protect that strategic intent and our national interests.

The Trump Administration is aware that an enemy must know that you are serious.  The enemy must know you will defend and will go on the offensive.  The enemy must have no clue what you would be willing to concern to achieve your national interests.  The enemy must know that you will use your military and your economic prowess and be prepared to operate using the full spectrum of military and economic forces, from psychological operations to military intervention, to economic sanctions.

US forces and our President use psychological operations as well as part of a coordinated military and economic campaign. The difference between our use of psychological operations by Trump is that more frequently than not threats of retaliation by our enemy were just that – threats with little military substance to tip the scales to victory for our enemy.

When Iran struck by downing our drone and operated militarily in the Gulf of Oman, Iran departed from its usual rhetoric which indicated to our President that a much more decisive and unpredictable response from the United States must be undertaken.

The President by threatening to strike militarily showed intent.  By reconsidering, he sent a message of restraint which gives temporary pause to Iran and then by striking with severe sanctions he continued the economic war that is far more damaging to Iran than any military strike.

The Arabic language is frequently characterized by cultural influences in which assertions of threats or the threats themselves carry as much meaning as carrying out the threat.  From 1950 to 2001, one would frequently encounter very blustery Arabic threats with a clear understanding that the threat was more psychological than real. Some of the linguistic differences between Arabic and English are presented in an excellent discourse called “Arabic Rhetoric – a pragmatic analysis”

Iran’s threats are real, executable, violent, and coordinated. The enemy has adapted to counter our strengths and exploit our weaknesses and must not be taken for granted.

Iran’s use of psychological operations against Western nations through the downing of a drone when combined with their relatively effective Gulf of Oman operations sends messages that Iran is willing to disrupt commerce.  Trump just signaled, so are we!

This enemy has demonstrated that it will carry out its threats.  President Trump has signaled that he will use the full scope of US military and economic might to execute our will.

President Trump understands that an enemy is to be defeated, not coddled.

President Trump has launched the second salvo in restoring US credibility in the region with his actions.  The first salvo was against ISIS and it was successful.

For this Administration, the full military and economic arsenal of our nation are available to this President and he will use them.  Iran be warned.

Frank Ryan, CPA, USMCR (Ret) represents the 101st District in the PA House of Representatives.  He is a retired Marine Reserve Colonel, a CPA and specializes in corporate restructuring.  He has served on numerous boards of publicly traded and non-profit organizations.  He can be reached at [email protected].