Daniel Pipes

In all, IRGC attacks have caused the deaths of more than 1,000 American soldiers, and many more members of other armed forces and non-combatants. The U.S. government has condemned the IRGC as a state sponsor of terrorism and designated it as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction.

Sofaer advocates a supple two-pronged approach to Tehran: "confront IRGC aggression directly and negotiate with Iran."

Confrontation means Washington exploits "the full range of options available to curb the IRGC short of preventive attacks on nuclear sites." He argues that U.S. forces have the right to and should target factories and storage facilities for arms, facilities associated with the IRGC (bases, ports, trucks, planes, ships), arms shipments about to be exported, and IRGC units. Sofaer's goal is not just to to curb IRGC violence but also to "undermine IRGC credibility and influence, and help convince Iran to negotiate in earnest" over its nuclear weapon program.

Negotiations means talking to Tehran about outstanding issues, rather than trying to punish it with aloofness. Sofaer quotes James Dobbins, a former special U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, as expressing this view: "It is time to apply to Iran the policies which won the Cold War, liberated the Warsaw Pact, and reunited Europe: détente and containment, communication whenever possible, and confrontation whenever necessary. We spoke to Stalin's Russia. We spoke to Mao's China. In both cases, greater mutual exposure changed their system, not ours. It's time to speak to Iran, unconditionally, and comprehensively." More broadly, along with Chester A. Crocker, another former American diplomat, Sofaer sees diplomacy as "the engine that converts raw energy and tangible power into meaningful political results."

Confronting and negotiating in tandem, Sofaer expects, will put great pressure on Tehran to improve its behavior generally (e.g., regarding terrorism) and possibly lead it to shut down the nuclear program, while leaving available a preemptive strike on the table "if all else fails."

Former secretary of state George P. Shultz, in his foreword to Taking on Iran, calls Sofaer's idea "an alternative that should have been implemented long ago." Indeed, the time is well overdue to respond to IRGC atrocities with the language of force that Iranian leaders only understand – and which has the additional benefit of possibly avoiding greater hostilities.


Daniel Pipes

Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum.