IF anyone was under the impression that US President Donald Trump’s recent offer of talks with Iran signalled a possible thaw in the Washington-Tehran relationship, that illusion came crashing down on Tuesday, as the US reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic. Terming them the “most biting sanctions ever imposed”, Mr Trump also issued a grim warning to the global community: anyone doing business with Iran will not be able to trade with the US. Considering that the US is the most powerful economy in the world, many global corporations have succumbed to the scare tactics and have cancelled deals with Iran. While the Iranian economy is suffering, if the US follows up with a second set of sanctions, due to take effect in November and which will target Tehran’s oil exports, major turbulence can be expected as Iran’s financial health is greatly linked to its petrochemical exports. Coupled with Mr Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from the nuclear deal in May, the Iranians view the sanctions as a declaration of economic war. President Hassan Rouhani has termed American efforts “psychological warfare against the Iranian nation”. Indeed, if America continues on the same pugnacious track, a full-blown confrontation between Washington and Tehran cannot be ruled out.
It is apparent that Mr Trump, and more specifically the warmongering clique that advises him on Middle East policy, wants regime change in Iran. Despite the fact that the US president has said he is taking these ill-advised steps for ‘world peace’, this can hardly be achieved by driving a sovereign country to the brink of war. The fact is the Americans are pushing Iran to the edge. The Iranian president has said that if his country’s oil exports are blocked, no one else will be able to ship oil through the Gulf. If Iran is economically strangulated, it may well take such a desperate step, and the blame will squarely fall on America. Instead of forging ‘world peace’, Mr Trump is pushing the Middle East into another destructive war. It should be remembered that despite over three decades of sanctions and hostilities, Iran has not changed course ideologically. There is still time to walk back from the brink. Perhaps the first step could be to ease US sanctions on Iran, and discard the option of blocking Tehran’s oil sales. However, if Mr Trump and his advisers maintain course, we can expect a very rough ride ahead in the Gulf and the wider Mideast.
Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2018