What We Should Do with Trump: Tehran and Washington in for New Tensions

Saturday, March 11, 2017


Saheb Sadeqi
Managing Editor of Diplomat

The approach taken by new US President Donald Trump to Iran is a function of his judgment about Iran's nuclear deal with the P5+1 group of countries, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Trump's opinion about the JCPOA is not very different from the general attitude of American think tanks toward this agreement. For Americans, the JCPOA is a deal to contain Iran. This idea, however, has not been realized in practice and as the United States started to feel disillusioned about being able to achieve its regional goals through the JCPOA, tensions between Tehran and Washington started to rise. This increase in tensions cannot be solely blamed on Trump, because following the implementation of the JCPOA and lack of change in Iran's regional behavior, tensions continued to soar. This attitude was even evident in the administration of former US president, Barack Obama, in later months of his term. The hostile positions taken by the former US secretary of state, John Kerry, and Obama, who frequently talked about Iran's destructive regional role, and strengthening of Washington’s security relations with Arab states in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, were all rooted in Iran's regional behavior. The only difference is that Trump gives voice to his desperation in the open, and of course, sometimes in exaggerated terms. Even Arab neighbors of Iran have been aware of this viewpoint among American officials. Intensification of tensions following the conclusion and implementation of the JCPOA has led to the understanding that the JCPOA has only served to heighten regional tensions. This understanding is the result of the fact that Arab states of the region have reached the conclusion that no change has taken place in Iran's regional behavior.

From this viewpoint, Trump’s security and foreign policy teams will not be sensitive towards the nuclear deal, because Iran as well as the European countries in addition to Russia and China have rejected the possibility of any change in its contents and renegotiation of the JCPOA. On the other hand, unilateral abrogation of the JCPOA will cost the United States quite dearly. In the meantime, the JCPOA, as an agreement reached to solve Iran’s nuclear program, has been useful to both sides. However, since what the United States expected beyond the JCPOA, that is, a change in Iran’s regional approach, has not been realized, the new US president will certainly focus on changing Iran’s regional behavior. Therefore, those pressures and sanctions, which are not at odds with the JCPOA, will be used to impose more restrictions on Iran’s regional exchanges and Trump’s cabinet will use any tool to ensure that any advantage that Iran may take from the results and economic effects of the JCPOA will be delayed. Iran’s objective defense and security approach to the region, according to which Tehran supports the resistance axis, on the one hand, while trying to develop its missile technology, on the other hand, is a major point where pressures from the new US government will be focused.

At the same time, Trump has added new entities and individuals to the list of those covered by anti-Iran sanctions following the country’s recent missile tests, and there are rumors about new sanctions being considered all of which show that putting new pressures on Iran has been practically started. Of course, choosing General Michael Flynn as the national security advisor to new US president was taken as a clear sign of this approach. Therefore, although Flynn was forced to resign on charges of having unproven meetings with the Russian ambassador to Washington, his close relationship with Trump is a sign of the approach adopted by the new national security team in the United States. Flynn is an experienced military man and a totally anti-Iran figure, who, as the closest security advisor to the US president, believes in the need to put serious restraints on Iran. In a book that he has recently published, Flynn said Iraq’s invasion of Iraq was a major strategic error, noting that if the US aimed to suppress terrorism following the 9/11 terror attacks, its main goal should have been Tehran, not Baghdad. Flynn considers Iran an abominable adversary, which has been in war with the United States and its allies, especially Israel, for close to 40 years. In the conclusion of his book and when he explains about the solution to deal with Iran, Flynn says the best way is for the United States to attack the enemy’s soft underbelly, which is preventing the success of the revolution in Iran. It goes without saying that what Flynn means is to put such enormous pressures on Iran that will not only affect the country’s missile might and its exchanges with the resistance axis, but also paralyze its economic system and provide grounds for public dissatisfaction.

At the same time, in a more general way, the level of dispute between Iran and the United States is so high that emergence of approaches aimed at reducing tensions in the two sides’ relations should not be expected any time soon. The JCPOA was only an agreement to put an end on the nuclear dispute between Iran and the West. There are still other problems between the two countries, including Iran’s severe opposition to establishment of the American order in the Middle East and the animosity between Iran and Israel. When it comes to these issues no change is expected to take place in political approaches of Iran and the United States.


*Photo Credit: CNN

*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review's viewpoints.

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