Another Act in the United States’ Post-JCPOA Strategy

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Omid Adib, Expert on International Issues

In his latest tour of the Middle East, the United States Secretary of State John Kerry has traveled to most countries around Iran and news of his visits has hit the media headlines. Kerry’s visits are, of course, a prelude to a similar regional tour at the end of this month by US President Barack Obama, who is supposed to follow up on the second phase of the Camp David meeting in Saudi Arabia’s capital city of Riyadh. These two events, which can be considered among the most important diplomatic moves by the United States following the conclusion of Iran's nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), shed a lot of light on the White House’s post-JCPOA strategy. To understand this strategy, it must be first seen in a broader perspective than the daily news, and then this question must be answered: What is the true nature of the United States’ policy on post-JCPOA conditions?

The US president took part in a press conference in Washington last week and while pointing out limitations faced by Iran with regard to conducting trade exchanges with the world, said, “Iran so far has followed the letter of the agreement, but the spirit of the agreement involves Iran also sending signals to the world community and businesses that it is not going to be engaging in a range of provocative actions that might scare business off.” Obama’s remark was reminiscent of the United States’ general strategy in past few years, which has made any improvement in Iran's economy conditional on a change in Tehran’s behavior across the region followed by changes in the country’s domestic policies.

One week after Obama’s remark, the same approach was followed by the United States secretary of state. John Kerry joined his Arab counterparts in talking about the United States’ readiness to work with Iran on issues like resolution of the country’s missile program, establishment of peace in Yemen and putting an end to Syria crisis. While implying his interest in JCPOA-like approaches to Iran's regional policies and missile program, Kerry also did not forget about threatening Iran, so as to presumably cause the Iranian side to make miscalculations.

On the whole, opening many new cases such as Iran's missile program, changing Iran's policies in Syria and across region, and also continued focus on putting pressure on Iran over the issue of human rights all prove that the United States’ tactic for mounting pressure on Iran has not changed. The question is what is the goal behind these pressures? The short-term goal may be forcing Iran to engage in new negotiations on issues like its missile program and regional policies in order to extort concessions from Tehran in this regard. However, unlike the nuclear issue, these issues are directly related to the country’s national security and are not open to any compromise or deal, of course, provided that the American side is actually ready for any real deal! For example, mere engagement in negotiations with the United States over the issue of Syria can reduce the resistance movement’s clout on the ground in Syria. On the other hand, in its large-scale post-JCPOA plan, the United States is certainly pursuing long-term goals, on top of which is to bring about a change in Iran's behavior. During recent months, the US president has frequently explained his viewpoint in this regard.

For example, he has frequently claimed that Iran should prove that it is a normal actor in the world politics. During his recent speech at the Nuclear Security Summit, he said, “Iran has to understand what every country in the world understands, which is businesses want to go where they feel safe, where they don't see massive controversy, where they can be confident that transactions are going to operate normally.” Also, a few months ago, he said in an interview with the Mic website that “There’s going to have to be a transition inside of Iran, even if gradual, in which there’s a recognition that chanting “death to America” or denying the Holocaust among its leaders or threatening Israel with destruction or, you know, providing arms to Hezbollah, which is on the terrorist list — that those things make Iran a pariah in the eyes of a large part of the world. And I can guarantee you that the moment the Iranian regime stopped engaging in that kind of rhetoric and that kind of behavior that Iran would just by virtue of its size, talent, resources, immediately rise in its influence and its power in the eyes of the world.” At present, through a multifaceted large-scale strategy, the White House is not only trying to change Iran's behavior, but also to manage its own regional allies.

In doing this, the United States government is still drumming up the notion that Iran is still a dangerous option, while by highlighting Iran's missile program, it is endeavoring to rally its rather dissatisfied Arab allies in the region around this new excuse and even sell more arms to them by magnifying this issue.

The fact that Kerry started his regional tour from the US military base in Bahrain can be a sign of the United States commitment to its regional allies in the face of what it calls as the Iran threat. Of course, the White House has been trying to manage this process in such a way that while keeping Iran committed to JCPOA, appease its regional allies as well.

Therefore, in order to implement its strategy during the post-JCPOA period, the United States must take three issues into consideration.

Firstly, it must continue to promote the policy of Iranophobia in order to increase the risk of investment in Iran. On the other hand, it has to mount pressure on the Islamic Republic with regard to various issues, including its missile program, in order to bring Iran to the negotiating table and get concessions from Tehran in other fields. Throughout all these stages, Washington must also make sure that Iran will remain committed to JCPOA by any means, including by providing certain financial incentives.

The United States is pursuing the first and second goals through cooperation of its Arab allies. Obama’s regional tour in parallel to anti-Iran remarks made by American and Saudi officials can not only help the United States find a good market for its weapons, but also stress the point that if the nuclear phase of the West’s move against Iran was completed in cooperation with Europe, now littoral Arab countries of the Persian Gulf are missioned to keep up propaganda against Iran's missiles.

Key WordsUnited States, Post-JCPOA Strategy, Iran, Middle East, John Kerry, Barack Obama, Camp David, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Missile Program, Yemen, Syria Crisis, Miscalculations, Arab Allies, Iranophobia, Regional Tour, Adib

Source: Khorasan Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

*Photo Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst