Read the original text at 112.ua.
May 8, US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran's nuclear program and the restoration of sanctions. This initiative was supported by Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed, based on the Israeli intelligence, that Iran had a secret military nuclear program, and the deal was built on deception (this program was completed in 2003). After the US withdrew from the nuclear deal, the Air Force of Israel inflicted several air strikes on Iranian military targets in Syria. Riyadh stood on the side of Washington. May 9, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced the kingdom's desire to acquire his own nuclear weapon if it comes to Iran. In his opinion, Saudi Arabia is trying to avoid direct military confrontation with Iran, but its provocative behavior cannot continue and is tantamount to declaring war. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called Trump's decision to quit the nuclear deal as an act of psychological warfare. Sometimes he is right.
A psychological attack against Iran
There is still no consensus on why Trump and his Middle Eastern partners are going to confront Iran. Carnegie Moscow Center concluded that the Republican administration did not demonstrate a strategy on Iran after exiting the nuclear deal, and Trump's decision was motivated by the fulfillment of one of the campaign promises. There is no argument that Tehran violated the Joint Comprehensive Nuclear Action Plan. Experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have no complaints about Iran's compliance with the terms of the nuclear deal. All the participating countries, except the United States, are satisfied with the nature of the nuclear deal. The Iranians destroyed the central zone of the heavy water reactor in Arak, which could produce plutonium for nuclear warheads. Iran, together with China and Russia, will redesign reactors and centrifuges in Arak and Fordo to produce stable isotopes. Tehran abandoned the technology that is used to create nuclear weapons, including multipoint blast detonation systems and neutron sources of explosive type. Iran also refused from all the reserves of enriched uranium.
It is incorrect to say that the United States does not have a strategy on Iran after exiting the nuclear deal. The president does not have absolute authority and decisions are influenced by the US Congress, the Pentagon, the State Department, and various advisers. Before taking any decision, the White House analyzes all the possible risks and consequences. In the latest version of the National Security Strategy (the US foreign policy document), Iran is presented as a rogue country and a threat, as it destabilizes the region, threatens the interests of the US and its allies, sponsors terrorist organizations, develops advanced ballistic missiles and has the potential to develop a nuclear weapons. The nuclear deal is not directly related to these problems, and the US intentionally left it to justify a return to the policy of sanctions against Iran.
Iranian parliamentarians burn a sheet of paper depicting the American flag after the US withdraws from the nuclear deal, May 9, 2018
Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh need an excuse for pressure on Tehran in order to weaken its growing influence in the Middle East in conjunction with Moscow and Damascus. The United States is interested in forcing Iran to stop squeezing American interests out of the region, creating hotbeds of instability near the borders of Saudi Arabia and Israel, and abandoning the development of ballistic missiles in the radius of which US military bases fall. The US wants Iran to stop participating in the armed conflict in Syria on the side of Russia and the regime of President Bashar Assad, to sponsor the anti-Zionist terrorist organization Hezbollah that won parliamentary elections in Lebanon, the Husit rebels in the armed conflict in Yemen that shell the territory of the Saudi Arabia from ballistic missiles.
According to the publication of Foreign Policy, referring to a State Department official, the US's ultimate goal is to induce the Iranians to new negotiations and agree on a new deal. Trump is ready to negotiate with the Iranians about a new deal that will concern not only the nuclear program but also the development of ballistic missiles, the sponsorship of extremist groups and other "criminal acts" in the Middle East. In order for the Iranians to be more accommodating, Trump restored sanctions, which relate to the energy, petrochemical and banking sectors of Iran.
Trump threatened to introduce restrictive measures against other countries that cooperate with Iran in business and gave them up to 180 days to close previously concluded deals. Iran's key trade and economic partners are China, the European Union, India, and Turkey. Sanctions against Iran can reduce oil supplies to the world market by 500 thousand barrels per day. Turkey and India can refuse from Iranian oil in order not to aggravate relations with the United States. The contract of the French company Airbus for the delivery of 100 aircraft to Iran and the development of oil fields worth $ 5 billion is under the threat of failure. American company Boeing will not ship the aircraft to Iran. Trump expects that for the sake of preserving the trade and economic ties that have been worked out since 2015, Europe and China will try to convince Iran to agree to negotiations with the US on a new deal. Earlier, the United States gave other partners for a nuclear deal 120 days to finalize it. Instead, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the owner of the Oval Office to maintain agreements with Iran.
Role and interests of Israel and Saudi Arabia
Israel and Saudi Arabia backed Trump's arguments in favor of withdrawing from the nuclear deal and restoring sanctions against Iran. Israeli air strikes in Syria were necessary to visually demonstrate to the international community the negative consequences of Iran's military activity in Syria. On the night of 9 to 10 May, Israeli pilots attacked Iranian military installations in Syria in response to the launch of 20 ballistic missiles in the direction of the positions of the Israeli army in the Golan Heights, which were intercepted. Jerusalem has benefited from the situation and destroyed the infrastructure in Syria, which could be used to bombard Israeli cities. Israeli pilots bombed warehouses with weapons that could be targeted at the Hezbollah terrorist organization in southern Lebanon.
The Israeli leadership has made it clear to Iranian colleagues that they do not have a real military and political allies who will support in the event of an armed conflict with Israel or the West. First of all, this concerns Russia. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the military parade in Moscow on May 9. During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, he compared Iran with Nazi Germany, said that any "suicidal ideology" must be repulsed in time. Despite the fact that earlier the General Staff of the Russian Federation announced the possibility of supplying S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to Syria, on May 11, Vladimir Kozhin, Russian president's aide for military-technical cooperation, stressed that this was not yet being discussed. At different times, Russia supplied Iran with armored vehicles, military aircraft, helicopters, anti-aircraft missile systems, including the S-300. As it happened with the United States, Britain, and France shelling of Asad chemical facilities, the Russian military did not help the Iranian allies in repulsing Israeli air strikes. The possible reduction in the volume of Iranian oil on the world market due to sanctions will lead to an increase in prices for "black gold", which is beneficial to Russia as an exporter of energy.
Trump dances with King of Saudi Arabia Salman Arabian dance with swords
The rhetoric about the possibility of Saudi Arabia's acquisition of nuclear weapons creates the appearance of the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East to contain Iran. In 1988, China sold Saudi Arabia to 120 medium-range CSS-2 medium-range ballistic missiles, which are used in the Chinese army as carriers of nuclear warheads. After Islamabad successfully conducted nuclear tests, in 1998 information began to be exaggerated about the possible transfer by Pakistan of the nuclear technologies of Saudi Arabia in the event of an aggravation of the situation in the Middle East. The Iranian leadership is being made clear that if they resume the nuclear program and begin to enrich uranium again, then their main geopolitical competitor, Saudi Arabia, will have nuclear weapons. Although it is unlikely that Washington will permit the emergence of Riyadh own nuclear truncheons. If necessary, the Americans will deploy their own missiles in Saudi territory and strengthen local missile defense.
The United States and Saudi Arabia want to prove that Iran delivers its missiles to Islamic extremists and this has a negative impact on security in the Middle East. Al-Jubeir's statement came after May 9 the Husit launched ballistic missiles in the direction of Saudi Arabia from the territory of Yemen. Since the beginning of the armed conflict in Yemen, the Husits have released 104 ballistic missiles in the direction of the airports and the capital of Riyadh. Their Burkan 2H missiles resemble Qiam 1 and Shahab-2 ballistic missiles of Iranian design. Saudi Arabia is interested in international isolation of Iran for economic reasons. Iran is its competitor in the oil market in China, India, and other Asian countries.
Iranian President said that his country will continue to abide by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for the Nuclear Program and cooperate on this issue with the rest of the participating countries, will observe their position. Iranians have no reason to restore the nuclear missile program in response to US sanctions. The damage from them will not be as serious as from the sanctions of the UN Security Council, which operated until 2015. The volume of bilateral trade between the US and Iran has amounted to only 258 million dollars by the end of 2016. Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China condemned the US exit from a nuclear deal. The restoration of sanctions against Iran is unprofitable for them from economic considerations. In 2017, Iran's trade turnover with the EU grew by 53% to 21 billion euros. In 2017, the trade turnover between Iran and China amounted to $ 40 billion. The two sides intend to increase the volume of bilateral trade to $ 50 billion this year. It is unlikely that absolutely all European and Chinese companies will follow American sanctions. The United States imposed sanctions against Iran because this state is not their major trade and economic partner.
The US withdrawal from the nuclear deal undermined the unity of the West. Similar disagreements between America and Europe arose in 2003, when France, Germany, and Russia did not support the US military operation in Iraq and the overthrow of the regime of President Saddam Hussein. Iran can play on the contradictions of the West and continue to develop ballistic missiles, sponsor Islamic extremists and, together with Russia, to influence the internal political situation in Syria. While the EU and China do not see a threat in Iran, they will not restore sanctions.
The United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia will not easily change Iran's behavior to a constructive course. In case of sanctions’ ineffectiveness, the partners will have to consider other options for influencing the Islamic Republic. Periodically, the issue of regime change in Iran is being discussed. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, presidential adviser for national security John Bolton, presidential adviser on cybersecurity support the regime change in Iran. The issue of the military operation in Iran was analyzed during the reign of a former President George W. Bush. However, there are no prospects for this in Iran. The theocratic regime, which is a corrupt alliance of the supporters of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the leaders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), controls the economic and political spheres. January hunger protests of youth in Tehran and large cities did not develop into large anti-government movements, as is happened in Venezuela. Sponsorship of separatist movements and inciting internal political conflicts in Iran is unlikely. For many years, the Iranian military has been holding back centrifugal tendencies in Iranian Kurdistan and fighting local separatists. Against the backdrop of the imposition of sanctions by the United States, anti-American sentiments will grow in Iran, and the ayatollah regime will shape the image of the enemy in America. Iranian society is able to consolidate when an external threat appears. The ayatollah regime will do everything possible to retain power and control over the major share of financial flows in the country.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or 112.International and its owners.