“We are experiencing tough times, we have to face the challenges courageously and strongly… we need powerful diplomatic efforts in the Middle East to control Iran’s destabilizing actions in Syria, Yemen and the region”. This was a part of new US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech to his staff, who amount to more than 70,000.
The US has a huge capability to weaken and possibly eliminate any regime it opposes, without shooting a single bullet, Pompeo said. Which almost happened to the Iranian regime when Washington imposed further sanctions in 2006 after a Security Council resolution in response to the regime’s insistence on pursuing its nuclear project.
Sanctions included banning the export of many goods, including refined oil products to Iran, preventing banking transactions, suspending financial transactions between Iran and most of the world’s banks, and pursued international oil companies to prevent them from production in Iran. Washington prohibited insurance for the Iranian oil tankers and built an electronic wall that blocked all dealings including registering websites and internet services. Without dollars, information, banks and insurance the Iranian regime was stuck; it could not trade, import nor fulfill the needs of its people.
The events required complicated diplomatic work, political patience, and well-informed intelligence agencies to make sure that the decisions were being implemented; this is what Washington succeeded in during this period. Due to these immense pressures, the Iranian regime resorted to communicate in private with, after three years of Obama’s administration asking to negotiate.
These communications coincided with the Green Revolution in Tehran, which strongly impacted the regime. Then a long set of talks started between the two sides. Iran then had to be more submissive after the revolution in Syria, its strategic ally in the region. In exchange for Iran to suspend its nuclear project for military purposes, the US administration agreed along with its European allies to make a secret deal to lift economic sanctions on Iran while refraining from toppling the Syrian regime. The Iranians, who are skilled in bargaining, had realized that President Obama is ready to give them more in return for the agreement. Thus they took double what they wished for, including large amounts of financial payments which suspended all the hostile campaigns against them and overlooked their military expansion in the region.
Even with Washington’s serious mistakes, the diplomatic work it led for years had resulted in an important agreement that forced Khamenei’s regime to yield without shooting a single bullet.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Power of diplomacy
Even with Washington’s serious mistakes, the diplomatic work it led for years had resulted in an important agreement that forced Khamenei’s regime to yield without shooting a single bullet. This is the power of US diplomatic tools as described by Pompeo in his speech a few days ago. It seems it is doing the same thing with the North Korean regime. What’s worrying is that the same mistakes made in dealing with Iran might be repeated with North Korea, since the circumstances are identical. The current administration needs an urgent preliminary assessment of the situation before November, when the midterm elections will take place. The president’s party should win one of the two chambers, or else he will lose a lot of his authority and be victim to his Democrat opponents.
However, using diplomacy only to force the regime in Tehran to respect UN principles by suspending its activities and interventions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen would succeed but will not achieve quick results. The advantage of diplomacy is that there is no blood nor bullets, but it is very slow and its results would be too late for heated issues, such as wars.
The fear is that the North Korean regime would use Washington’s pressing desire, to have a historic nuclear agreement to exert more pressure. I do not rule out that the North Korean leader would try to rescue Khamenei, his ally, by convincing the Americans that if they retreated in any of their commitments to the Iranian deal it would affect their credibility in their negotiations with him. My fears might not be real, but we know the relationship between the two extreme regimes.
This article is also available in Arabic.
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. He tweets @aalrashed.
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