January 01, 2021

Why America really needs better conventional forces to deter Iran

Originally published in The Hill

The anniversary of the killing of Iranian Quds Force Commander Qassim Soleimani is January 3. Iranian media is full of commemorations — and demands for and promises of revenge. Iranian-backed militias in Iraq recently conducted the largest missile barrage against the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in a decade.

The U.S. military has sent some reinforcements to the region to deter further escalations — but some experts think that’s a mistake. If the U.S. is serious about refocusing on great-power competition and away from the Middle East, they say, then withholding high-end reinforcements from the Persian Gulf is exactly the kind of hard call American leaders need to make.

This argument is seductive, but wrong and dangerous. American strategy must balance great-power competition with requirements to protect its interests and personnel around the world. The U.S. cannot allow its correct preoccupation with China and Russia to starve the Middle East — which also is vital to American national interests — of essential military resources in the midst of escalating crises.

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