Using deterrence to make the world safer

Pompeo (right) seated in a chair talking to Condoleezza Rice (State Dept./Ron Przysucha)
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo talks with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at Stanford University in California on January 13. [State Dept./Ron Przysucha)

The U.S. is leading an international campaign to restore deterrence against the Iranian regime and other aggressive nations that seek to expand their global reach.

Deterrence “requires credibility; indeed, it depends on it,” U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo told the Hoover Institution, a policy think tank at Stanford University in California January 13. “Your adversary must understand not only do you have the capacity to impose costs but that you are, in fact, willing to do so.”

The January 2 U.S. drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps–Quds Force (IRGC-QF), is a recent example of U.S. deterrence. Soleimani exported terrorism worldwide and caused thousands of deaths. He also was behind the December 31 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

“There is no terrorist except Osama bin Laden who has more American blood on his hands than did Qassem Soleimani,” the secretary said. He added that the world is safer without the risk Soleimani posed.

Deterring the Iranian regime

Pompeo said the U.S. has implemented a campaign of diplomatic isolation, economic pressure and military deterrence. The aim is to deprive Iran’s regime of billions of dollars to perpetrate terrorism and to encourage Iran “to behave like a normal nation.”

Other nations have joined the U.S. in seeking to deter the Iranian regime’s aggression, the secretary said, noting:

Deterrence needed everywhere

Efforts to restore deterrence extend beyond Iran to other regimes, Pompeo said, laying out several examples:

  • Russia: The United States has resumed lethal support to the Ukrainian military after Russia’s support for aggression against Ukraine and occupation of the Crimea in 2014.
  • South China Sea: The U.S. has ramped up naval exercises in the South China Sea alongside allies and partners throughout the region in response to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) island-building campaign.
  • Arms Control: With the full support of NATO, the U.S. withdrew from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with the Russian Federation after Russia violated the deal.