Presidential Campaign

Giuliani should be secretary of State — here’s why

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With growing speculation that former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is in contention for secretary of State in the Trump Cabinet, multiple negative media stories have targeted the potential selection, especially because of the mayor’s stance against the Iran nuclear deal and his support for a firm policy on Iran.

There are many serious foreign policy challenges facing the next administration, including the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the ongoing Syrian conflict, Iran’s nuclear program and regional interventions, and repairing damaged ties with U.S. allies and friends in the Middle East.

The most strategic and substantial challenge, however, will continue to be the threat posed by the regime in Iran. There are several reasons for this:

  • Iran is the main state sponsor of terrorism in the world;
  • under the July 2015 nuclear deal, much of Tehran’s nuclear infrastructure remains intact;
  • flush with cash as a result of sanctions relief, Iran has dramatically stepped up its terrorism and regional interference, including in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.

A successful and responsible Middle East policy would have Iran as its centerpiece. Despite a hollow show of force, the unpopular clerical regime has much vulnerability that can be exploited, given sufficient political will. 

{mosads}Iran’s main vulnerability is its deep-rooted and extensive domestic instability. But instead of supporting the massive popular Iranian uprising in 2009, the Obama administration stood on the sidelines. After the protests, it mired itself in the false dichotomy of “moderates” and “hardliners” within the regime, hoping to change Tehran’s behavior by strengthening moderates.


Yet the people Washington wrongly considered as “moderates” have instead increased the military budget, test-fired ballistic missiles in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions, stepped up destructive meddling in the region, violated nuclear commitments, and increased the number of executions to levels not seen in the past 25 years.

The Obama administration continually underestimated the extent of popular dissent against the regime, as well as the role of the highly organized Iranian resistance movements like the National Council of Resistance of Iran, and its pivotal organization, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). It also overestimated the ruling regime’s power.

History has shown that engaging with any tyranny like Tehran’s would only embolden it. In the end, it was Iran’s role in Syria and Iraq that helped breed and expand sectarianism and ISIS. Besides, Tehran’s mullahs are essentially the Shiite version of ISIS.

That is why adopting a firm and strategic policy toward Tehran is essential to destroying ISIS, as well as the heartland of Islamic fundamentalism, in the long run. The mullahs, like all bullies and dictators, only understand the language of power. Standing on the side of the majority of the Iranian people and their organized resistance movement for democratic change should be the cornerstone of a successful U.S. policy. This is what the regime fears the most.

Mayor Giuliani understands this and has been among the top U.S. officials who have long called for democratic change from within. His stance is shared by many American officials, on both sides of the aisle. He does not call for war or military intervention. He calls for a firm policy towards the theocracy and the engagement of the true U.S. allies, namely the Iranian people. 

This is an option based on common sense, which is aimed at changing Iran’s behavior at the least possible cost for the United States. It means that the U.S. can achieve its goal by showing resolve and sending the strongest possible message to the mullahs. Donald Trump’s main foreign policy theme during his campaign was arguably that we could achieve peace and security through strength, not weakness. Giuliani’s attitude toward Iran is in perfect harmony with that general framework. 

Last but not least, Giuliani has been a vocal critic of the Iran deal. As a result of the deal, Iran gained much of what it needed to increase its destabilizing interventions in the region. When everyone who advocated for the deal predicted a renaissance in Iran, the mayor saw an emboldened regime ready to strike more targets. He was right — again.

The main problem with the deal was that it was struck without having a comprehensive policy toward Tehran, one that includes a long-term approach with respect to its human rights violations and terrorism. The Trump administration should strive to generate this important context and then renegotiate the deal.

That is where Mayor Giuliani’s deep understanding of one of America’s most important foreign policy challenges comes to play. That is what the real qualification for a “diplomat” should be. He is the right man for the job.


Shahram Ahmadi Nasab Emran, MD, MA, Ph.D.(c), teaches at Albert Gnaegi Center for Health Care Ethics, Saint Louis University.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.

Tags Cabinet Donald Trump Iran ISIS State Department

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