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From Iran’s ‘cost-free expansion’ to 12-step program

Makram Rabah

Published: Updated:

“No more cost-free expansions of Iranian power” perfectly sums up the Trump administration’s new policy toward the Iranian regime and its menacing expansion in the Middle East.

The speech of the newly minted US Secretary of State, Mike Pomepo, from the pulpit of the Heritage Foundation – a Washington-based right wing think-tank and a creation of the Reagan years – is not merely a declaration of the economic sanctions on Iran; but rather more of a eulogy that once and for all laid to rest Obama’s doctrine and its ludicrous laxity vis-à-vis Iran.

Naturally, Trump’s withdrawal from the Nuclear Deal and the decision to reinstate sanctions were a long time coming, as both were pledges he had openly made during his campaign.

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However, what is unique in this new US policy toward Iran is the breadth of these sanctions and the extent the US and its Arab allies are willing to go to financially cripple Iran, as well as punish the countries who are unwilling to respect these sanctions including Europe.

More importantly, the crystallization of this military and financial policy to contain Iran is the making of hawkish elements within the current administration, who recognize the extent of Iranian hegemony throughout the region and its long-term ramifications.

The real menace was never the Iranian nuclear program, which was far from completion, but rather the expansionist sectarian policy, which Sunni extremist factions used as a pretext to recruit and ultimately carry out terrorist attacks.

The real menace was never the Iranian nuclear program, which was far from completion, but rather the expansionist sectarian policy, which Sunni extremist factions used as a pretext to recruit terrorists

Makram Rabah

Admittance of fault

Much of Pompeo’s speech provided Iran with a clear roadmap to exit its current predicament, which included a 12-step program, very much similar to the ones recovering addicts undergo to attain mental and physical rehabilitation.

However, an essential element of the success of this 12-step program is Iran’s willingness to openly admit that its undertakings have only lead to more chaos and sectarian violence.

On the contrary, the Iranian regime peddles itself as a champion of the oppressed as well as the patron of the Palestinian people and the liberator of Jerusalem. Objectives, which with the advent of time seem to be further harder to attain due to Iran’s own actions.

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Coincidently Pompeo’s accusations against Iran throughout his speech are substantiated by the actions of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the many sectarian militias it has setup across the region, whose crimes and massacres outmatch those perpetrated by ISIS and its affiliates.

Such accusations are not restricted to the US and the West but are rather voiced by the majority of the moderate factions in the region who refuse Iran’s persistent infringement and hegemony over their government and its resources.

Making amends

Another step, which the Iranian regime needs to commit to, is to reexamine its policies and actions and to make amends where needed, and in the words of Pompeo “look itself in the mirror.”

Realistically however the regime does not seem to be remorseful about much of its meddling in Syria and Yemen has only left thousands of death and millions of refugees, and above all made an already precarious situation even murkier.

Change of behavior

All of the previous and current attempts to engage Iran were anchored in a process of wishful thinking which assumed that, if given the chance as well as economic motivations the religious autocrats in Tehran, pressured by their own people will gradually undergo a change of behavior.

Yet what the nuclear deal achieved was exactly the opposite as the hawkish elements within the regime used the deal as a springboard to further expansion and to claim victory to their revolutionary track.

Since 2015, Qasem Soleimani, the infamous commander of the IRG Quds Force, has shamelessly paraded in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon boasting of his men’s ability to fight terrorism and ISIS while in fact transforming the region and its people into vessels for Iran.

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Soleimani recent visit to Iraq following the conclusion of the parliamentary election, in a desperate attempt to impose his local cronies into the next cabinet should serve as a reminder that Iran neither wants nor plans to respect the sovereignty of these hostage nations.

Amusingly, despite his bullish remarks, Pompeo extended his hand to Iran and promised to renegotiate a new deal if these 12 steps or demands are met. Yet to expect the Iranian regime to even read these demands and take the necessary steps toward achieving them would be miraculous to say the least.

The Iranian revolution, which started in 1979 and was hijacked by the Khomeini and his skewed reading of Shiite theology, choose to promote itself as a sectarian revolutionary entity and thus to expect it to reform is similar to expecting molasses from the back end of a mongoose, neither realistic but above all unsavory.
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Makram Rabah is a lecturer at the American University of Beirut, Department of History. He is the author of A Campus at War: Student Politics at the American University of Beirut, 1967-1975. He tweets @makramrabah.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.