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Will Pompeo beat the drums of war against Iran?

We are currently in a race between the escalation of US warnings on one hand, and Iran’s increasing control over territories in Syria on the other, as Trump’s deadline regarding the nuclear deal with Tehran approaches.

Trump has appointed Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State to succeed Rex Tillerson.

Meanwhile, Trump had given the US Congress and his European allies until May to amend the Iranian nuclear agreement. The deadline ends in mid-May. On October 13 last year, Trump announced his strategy towards Iran and demanded amending the nuclear deal which he described as the worst deal ever.

He also called for ending the Iranian missile program and Tehran’s interference and expansion in Arab countries and threats to regional security. 

Iran’s corridor to Mediterranean

Ever since Trump announced his strategy, Iran has been racing against time to expand its influence in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon so that it could gain more clout in negotiations following the deadline and acquire all the territory it needs in the new Middle East.

Iran has increased its subversive activities which it relies on its close relations with the Assad regime and its allies in the Iraqi government to carry out.

It has asked Qassem Soleimani to open a third land corridor through Iraqi territory to link Iran to the Mediterranean Sea. This corridor would go through Al-Anbar governorate and aims to help its allies in Syria and Lebanon.

Soleimani has coordinated with Hezbollah and Popular Mobilization commanders to coordinate opening of this new passage. Iran is now forcing mass displacement of population in Syrian and Iraqi cities which are part of its new route. These cities include Eastern Ghouta. Iran is now cooperating with the Assad regime under a Russian cover to evacuate the city of its people and replace them with mercenary Shiite militias.

Meanwhile, Iran is also strengthening five of its military units with as much as 75,000 Lebanese, Iraqi and Afghan fighters along with 10,000 soldiers and officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Iran is not only expanding in the northern sector but is also spreading its presence along the Israeli-Syrian borders, thus defying Israeli threats which warned against Iranian-backed troops’ possession of ballistic missiles and anti-aircraft weapons. It seems that the confrontation that took place a month ago would not be the last, as Israel said it would not stand by idly as Iran approaches its borders. (Source: Strategy Watch)

The French foreign minister’s visit to Iran conveyed a message to the theocratic regime stating that Europe has ran out of patience and it’s now embarrassed before the US and its allies in the region so it may stand by the US over the issue of Iran’s missiles program and expansion.

So what’s the secret behind US’ tardiness in responding to Iran? What would its response be? Would it settle with imposing sanctions? Has the US been slow in its response because it has worked in rehabilitating the region before the clash, which most speculations indicate will be an Israeli-Iranian one on Syrian territory?

Sawsan Al Shaer

For his part, Khamenei instructed the Friday prayer leader in Tehran to read out a statement on his behalf that said: “French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who visited Tehran on March 5, received the appropriate response regarding the missiles program. It’s wrong for Le Drian to say said that (we) should take their permission on regional issues. The leader of the revolution asserted that our region has nothing to do with them. We have not allowed anyone to interfere till now, and from now on we would not allow anyone to cause sedition. The US presence in the region aims to incite sedition.” This statement was published in Iran’s Tasnim news agency, a media wing of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

US pressure mounts

On the other hand, US activity, whether in Syria or Yemen, does not seem to commensurate with Iran’s movements. There has also been an increase in the number of statements by US officials on the subject — the latest coming from US National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster, who described Assad’s activities in cahoots with Iran as “war crimes”. McMaster also noted that Iran spent up to $16 billion on its proxies. So what’s the secret behind US’ tardiness in responding to Iran? What would its response be? Would it settle with imposing sanctions? Has the US been slow in its response because it has worked in rehabilitating the region before the clash, which most speculations indicate will be an Israeli-Iranian one on Syrian territory?

Has the French foreign minister issued the final warning to Iran? Was the dismissal of Tillerson, who believed the nuclear agreement was “reasonable,” an indication of change? Does the appointment of Pompeo, who along with the Secretary of Defense James Mattis believes that international security is threatened by Iran’s activities, serve as a new sign? All these questions are going to be answered in the next two months.

This article is also available in Arabic.

_______________________
Sawsan Al Shaer is a Bahraini writer and journalist. She tweets @sawsanalshaer.

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Last Update: Friday, 23 March 2018 KSA 17:27 - GMT 14:27
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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