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Will American pressure fold Iran?

May 28,2019 - Last updated at May 28,2019

American President Donald Trump’s grandiloquence toward Iran has reached the maximum pressure in a bid to effect regime change, not a regime makeover after fire and fury status quo when he warned the rulers of Iran on May 19 that it will be the end of Iran if war ever erupts between both sides. Yet, a commotion of diplomatic activities is on the rise day after day to prevent any drift towards an open war that would lead to a long-term conflict in various countries of the Middle East. 

The issue has heated up when the US re-imposed sanctions against Iran on November 5, 2018 after Washington had pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May last year. The pull-out of nuclear agreement with Iran foreshadowed an American strategic goal to not only control Iranian nuclear activities, but also the country’s political and military policies at regional level. The JCPOA withdrawal was only the beginning that paved the way for more comprehensive and aggressive campaign to drive Iran to the negotiating table in order to deprive Tehran of many regional gains Iranians accomplished since 1991, benefitting from conflicting interests of its Arab neighbours. 

The Trump administration is buoyed by the efficacy of the sanctions against Iran, which are similar to those imposed on Iraq before. Though the Americans say that they want Iran to negotiate a better deal than the previous one, Iranians do not trust that that is the reason for their country to be under continuous financial and economic embargoes. On May 15, American president tweeted he is “sure that Iran will want to talk soon”.  What would happen if Iranians do not talk?

The core demand of the US to sit with Iran to discuss Iranian nuclear and missile programmes, in addition to ceding support to some proxies in some countries of the greater Middle East, starting from Afghanistan to Yemen. It is not weird that the European leaders do share American concerns vis-à-vis Iranian regional behavior; however, the EU differ with the US over the means and steps to change the Iranian conduct to accept new terms for the nuclear deal, which will lead to discussion of Iranian ballistic missile capabilities.

The rift between the Europeans and the Americans over Iran’s behaviour stems from Iranian missile programme and its role in Yemen and Syria; the US and the EU agree on the necessity to change this conduct but they diverge over how to change the Iranian behaviour towards neighbours in the region. The EU and the US realise that it is very difficult to change the regime with internal protests as Iran has a wide territory and its demise would cause a problem to neighbouring countries such as Russia, the Gulf Cooperation Council states, Iraq, Turkey and Afghanistan, as Iranians will resort to war of attrition to wear down the US and its allies in order not to succumb to American demands.

The issue between Washington and Tehran has entered a new phase when the American administration designated the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organisation on April 15. With further sanctions on Iranian individuals, Americans seek to ignite demonstrations inside Iran that would help topple the regime before taking any military action. The first step of war against Iran has concluded with sanctions; the second will be a plot for protests and strikes that would be amplified by international coverage of corruption and malpractices of the regime.

It is clear that both Washington and Tehran do not seek to engage in a direct war at this stage in spite of all triggers that cause high-level tension between both. Some military experts believe that direct cost of war would be $3 trillion. Thus, it is expected that both sides will pursue incremental escalation with backdoor talks via third parties. At a later stage, if both Iran and the US do not reach any reconciliation or compromise, local actors may clash in a form of proxy wars where the US will continue blaming the Iranians and their militias for the state of instability in the region and Iran will continue dismissing blameworthiness for the anarchy in some Arab countries.

It is recognisable that the US and its allies seek to weaken Iran internally before any further action; yet, the risk is if the stalemate exists and Iran does not accept the new terms and conditions with regard to the nuclear deal, by then the region will be on the verge of a new era. Yet, the level of distrust between both Iran and the US is on the rise and a possibility of a friction is possible if the two previous peaceful scenarios do not help avoid the region a spiral military conflict, which would start with naval incidents escalating into all way-out confrontation.

 

The writer is a consultant, senior political and media adviser and the executive director of Geostrategic Media Centre-USA. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times

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