Washington’s New Iran Strategy Encounters no Opposition from the West

Mohamad Kawas

US President Donald Trump’s declared approach to the Iranian file was a complete reversal of Washington’s previous views about the Middle East, especially during the tenure of former President Barack Obama, and set the tone for America’s new mission as leader of the world.
Under Obama, the United States had reconsidered its Middle East political heritage and decided to downplay the Americans’ role in the region. With Trump, the United States is back in control of the pending questions in the region and perhaps the world.
However, Trump’s discourse concerning Iran raises questions as to whether the US president is being true to his campaign promises or whether it represents America’s deep strategic thinking. It is no secret that Trump enjoys undoing his predecessor’s “achievements” just out of spite and often fails to offer alternatives. A good illustration of that is the undoing of “Obamacare,” which is awaiting an alternative acceptable to the US Congress.
Trump’s position on the nuclear deal with Iran seemed, at first, just election rhetoric. For the various signatories of the agreement, the deal was still standing. Trump, however, once again proves that the fate of Obama’s heritage is subject to the new president’s mood.
Thus, Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate accords. His decision was in no way tied to pressure from the industrial lobbies in the United States. Before that, he decided on restrictions on Muslims entering the United States. That decree was not the result of pressure from security and intelligence agencies in the country.
Now he has set the tone on the nuclear deal with Iran despite recommendations from inside the Republican Party and from Israel itself to maintain that deal.
In the United States, the first and last words are often with the president. So, when Trump mouths his strategy for Iran, every member of his administration hurries to position himself or herself in line with the president’s position. Thus, the US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, a “Trumpist” through and through; US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is said to have called his boss a moron; and Defence Secretary James Mattis, who had opposed his country’s withdrawal from the accord with Iran, all spoke with the same voice about Iran — that of their boss.
It seems that Trump’s position on the nuclear deal with Iran is a mere detail that has been quickly appended to the blueprints of a major military and diplomatic campaign aimed at containing Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East.
Israel, whose prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, had obsessed during Obama’s presidency over the nuclear deal with Iran, quickly forgot it and is now obsessed with the Iranian threat in Syria and Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia, which did not oppose the deal, chose to go its own way in facing Iran’s expansion in the Middle East. None of the concerned parties in the Middle East had really opposed the nuclear deal with Iran. Tehran must have patted itself on the back for succeeding to silence the international community. The stage was set for Iran to openly pursue aggressive expansionist policies in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and the Gulf region in general.
The United States’ new strategy against Iran goes beyond Iran. It seeks to limit Russia’s, and perhaps even Beijing’s, involvement in the region. Through the declared and planned countermeasures against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the United States makes a strong comeback in the Middle East. For Russia’s adventure in Syria, the IRGC and militias play a vital role. By targeting the IRGC, which stands at the heart of the Iranian octopus, the United States stands to hit the Russian Syrian strategy itself.
The immediate reactions of America’s allies to Trump’s announcement of his Iranian strategy mark a clear effort to distance themselves from Washington’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran. London and Berlin decided to maintain their parts of the agreement. French President Emmanuel Macron caused a vigorous stir when he announced his intention to visit Iran.
The fact remains that those European allies did not oppose the US option of targeting the IRGC. After all, this paramilitary organisation was behind many terrorist operations in Europe and has targeted European interests around the world. One day after Trump’s announcement, London revealed that, contrary to what was believed, the cyber-attacks on the British Parliament last January were not orchestrated by Russia but by Iranian cyber-pirates working for Tehran.
In short, Washington’s new anti-Iran strategy in the Middle East will encounter no opposition from the West. Even Moscow, which is quite keen on marking its presence in the Middle East, will avoid antagonising the United States. It might therefore bless America’s actions against the IRGC as a token of Russian-American cooperation. Mohamad Kawas is a Lebanese writer. Copyright ©2017 The Arab Weekly