General Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, sent a message to President Hassan Rowhani telling him: “I kiss your hands for these wise statements, and I am at your service to implement any policy that serves the Islamic Republic.”
Rowhani, who was described as Iran’s dove, has assumed the hawk’s role ever since he was subjected to criticism from the governance, where they have demanded for him to be held accountable, accusing him of implicating them in the nuclear agreement, and that he was tricked and betrayed by the Americans.
The “wise statements” made by Rowhani, and admired by Soleimani, are threats to the US that Iran will respond by force if they prevent it from selling its oil. The supreme guide also applauded Rowhani and said he admired his statements, adding that he supports the closing of the Strait of Hormuz. The new hawk, Rowhani, then dared and addressed the American president warning him not to play with the lion’s tail!
According to my observation of the Iranian regime and its behavior in the region, I think it will likely retreat as per its old tactic until it comprehends the crisis, with the intention to resume exporting chaos after the end of Trump’s presidency or perhaps before then if it seals another nuclear dealAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Will Iran back down?
The old lion, i.e. Iran’s regime, and not just its tail, is being publicly beaten and humiliated in Syria by the Israelis. It has not dared to respond, not even once. All its threats are worthless empty talk.
Iranian officials have been in a state of confusion ever since President Trump imposed sanctions. They do not know whether to accept half a deal with the Europeans or cancel the entire agreement or concede to the Americans and negotiate again. Do they resort to force to threaten and blackmail the West like they did in the past, or will Trump find this as an excuse to topple the regime like George Bush toppled Saddam’s regime?
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Some officials in Tehran publicly call for the targeting of American interests, igniting the region and closing the Strait of Hormuz, primarily General Soleimani who said he is “ready to implement President Rowhani’s plan” and that “Hormuz is either for everyone or for no one.”
Whether Soleimani kisses Rowhani’s hands to launch a terror war, carry out assassinations and close the Hormuz Strait or whether the Americans step on the lion’s tail directly and not through their regional proxy, Israel, the pressure will increase during the next weeks.
There are two important dates we must observe in detail. On August 4, American sanctions on whoever sells gold and food to Iran will go into effect. Three months later, i.e. beginning of November, the American siege on Iranian oil begins. It is then that we will know the Khamenei regime’s limitations, and whether it really intends to escalate or if it will back down, lick its wounds and surrender its pride.
According to my observation of the regime and its behavior in the region, I think it will likely retreat as per its old tactic until it comprehends the crisis, with the intention to resume exporting chaos after the end of Trump’s presidency or perhaps before then if it seals another nuclear deal. This does not mean we should not be cautious of the wounded, humiliated lion in Syria after the cancellation of the nuclear deal, which it viewed as the epitome of its victories.
We must also not forget the new factor, which is the fact that the situation inside Iran is difficult and may develop into a revolution, which may push it to attempt to export its problem by opening a front in the Gulf. This is a weak possibility when taking into consideration its style in managing past crises, and given the hole it dug itself in in Syria and the rest of the region’s countries.
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.