You do not know who or what to believe from official statements issued by Washington regarding the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Syrian regime or Iran. There is an exceptional statement from a U.S. official that is new in content, but due to its ambiguity we cannot rely on it. A senior Treasury official told Chatham House in London that the United States considers Iran, even without a nuclear capability, a threat to Europe and the world.
He explicitly said Tehran was still leading the world in funding terrorism. It is the main supporter of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, and it is supplying weapons to extremists in Yemen. It backs the Syrian regime in the violence and destruction perpetrated in Syria. He said Washington would lift sanctions on Iran following the nuclear deal with the West, but would maintain its boycott and prosecution of all those who cooperate with Tehran on the terrorist side.
The Americans thought lifting sanctions would moderate Iranian policy, but it is waging more wars in the region.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
In short, he believes there is no benefit in reforming Iran’s behavior. This is what we have been saying from the start. Since the Treasury is one of the most important ministries and executive institutions of the U.S. government, we can consider the statement an important modification even if it does not represent a full retreat in U.S. policy toward Iran.
It would be significant if Washington implemented controls on financial transfers, and imposed new sanctions on international companies dealing with Iran on issues such as Syria and Yemen. The United States could thus affect Iran's behavior in the region and the world. American openness boosted the influence of hardliners in the Iranian regime and weakened the moderates, including President Hassan Rowhani, the engineer of the nuclear deal on the Iranian side.
Washington’s economic weapon is very powerful, and might have a bigger impact than military options. All of the above depend on the accuracy of what has been said, and whether Washington has finally discovered that Iran has not abandoned its policy of supporting terrorism, which is threatening the world.
The Americans thought lifting sanctions would moderate Iranian policy, but it is waging more wars in the region. Iran is now spending on arms deals with Russia, which has become directly involved in Syria.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Dec. 18, 2015.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.