Former US President Barack Obama used to view Iran as a “complicated country – just like we are a complicated country.” His successor, Donald Trump, believes that the Iranian regime is an “exporter of evil.” Developments have proven that the former was wrong.
The US consequently withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) after three years during which facts and evidence demonstrated that continuing with the deal would lead the region towards an unavoidable war.
When we say it is a justified, understandable and reasonable step, we are not simply following what Saudi Arabia has been calling for or that ending the deal falls in its favor or that it was necessary to stand against evil.
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The US withdrawal from the agreement and the return of economic sanctions against the Iranian regime will weaken the chances of war in the region. Iran has exploited the massive loopholes in the agreement to export its revolution, launch ballistic missiles and fund its militias.
Of course, no one wants to stoke the tensions in the region and it is in no one’s interest for the Arab Gulf states to be on the brink of war, but maintaining the nuclear deal would have done just that. Saudi Arabia, for example, was targeted by the Houthi militia with 135 Iranian ballistic missiles only after the sanctions were lifted off Iran by the bad nuclear deal.
Expectations that the regime will change its behavior were dashed, but this is something the Europeans are still counting on. They have also argued that Trump did not offer an alternative to the deal. The truth is that the best confrontation lies in cornering Iran. The gaps that allow it to infiltrate the region should be blocked.
Until Trump gives Iran the ultimatum of returning to negotiations “or else”, then the future of the region, despite some tensions, is without a doubt better off than waiting for that keg to explodeSalman al-Dosary
The catastrophic deal definitely overlooked Tehran’s behavior. No sooner had the economic sanctions been lifted that it dedicated $150 billion to fund the Revolutionary Guards. What world could possibly be safer and more secure with such a terrible deal?
We can say that the harsh economic sanctions that will be imposed on the Iranian regime will be the first and lightest step of a strategy that will prevent Tehran from taking the region to the brink of war. The carrot and stick policy proved to be useless and the Iranian people did not reap a single benefit from the three years of sanctions relief.
Tehran is now bracing itself for very difficult days, especially on its economy. The US is banking that a lot of companies with major trade ties with Iran would be keen to avert a clash with Washington. Even Russian firms and banks will be wary of coming at odds with the US.
The US economic intentions against Tehran were clear when the Secretary of Treasury announced that Boeing and Airbus agreements with Iran will be canceled after the withdrawal from the nuclear deal. This is a major blow because one contract alone covered 200 passenger planes, including 100 airbuses.
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More importantly, with regards to Iran’s oil exports, the sanctions will diminish them to a third of what they are. This is a real catastrophe for the Iranian economy. China, India and Korea are the main importers of Iranian oil, but Washington warned that it will go after countries that maintain their trade relations with Tehran.
Trump should not be taken lightly when he said: “We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction. Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States.”
Prior to the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, the region was sitting on a powder keg that was ready to go off at any moment. The spark may be coming later rather than sooner. Until Trump gives Iran the ultimatum of returning to negotiations “or else”, then the future of the region, despite some tensions, is without a doubt better off than waiting for that keg to explode.
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.
Salman Aldosary is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper. He tweets @SalmanAldosary.
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