Up until a few days ago, Tehran was looking towards the West, towards any flimsy hope that can change its fate as it was hoping that a crisis like the murder of Jamal Khashoggi may push American President Donald Trump to postpone his decision to impose the most dangerous round of sanctions on it, if not back down completely from the decision.
The sanctions went into effect after midnight the day before yesterday. President Trump hence solidified his project to pressure Iran, and he indirectly kept his strategic ties with Saudi Arabia, which lays at the heart of the Iran oil boycott. Tehran got angry and Riyadh breathed a sigh of relief.
The sanctions are harmful to the Tehran regime as they limit the selling of more than half of its oil immediately, prohibiting it from trading via America’s banking system and preventing Tehran’s clients from using the dollar.
What’s required from Iran in this new American attack on Tehran is to pledge that it will abstain from building a nuclear program that militarily qualifies it to attain nuclear weapons. The current deal only prohibits it for ten yearsAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Even though, Trump said for months before the siege that he expects the Iranian leadership to request negotiations and back down, however, we actually never expected Iran to back down, at least not in the time being. Iran backs down after a while and it does so after it is in a critical situation.
Possible Iranian concessions
It will make important concessions but maybe after two years with the end of Trump’s presidential term. Iran was ranked third in the world in terms of oil exports but today it’s expected that at the end of the year it will not be able to export more than a million and a quarter of a million barrels a day, and Saudi Arabia and Iraq will fill this void by producing more oil.
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Although the president announced it his way via his Twitter account that he will make the Iranian regime live through a harsh winter and used a photo evoking a phrase from Game of Thrones, some doubted the story of the promised harsh winter!
Washington said it will allow eight countries, including Turkey, Iraq, China, South Korea, Japan and India, to continue importing oil from Iran. This will of course foil the process of preventing the regime from exporting.
We can interpret this sudden exception as an actual attempt by the Trump administration not to anger its allies, which demanded more time to rearrange their situation especially that many of the oil purchases are previous contracts that last for an upcoming phase. Hence, the exception lasts for around six months.
We can also view this as a desire by Washington to leave the door slightly open with a small gap that allows the Iranian regime to exit from the corner that it’s besieged in, in exchange for it making concessions that allow sealing a new alternative nuclear deal. The aim of the sanctions is only exerting pressure to get a better offer.
What’s required from Iran in this new American attack on Tehran is to pledge that it will abstain from building a nuclear program that militarily qualifies it to attain nuclear weapons. The current deal only prohibits it for ten years. The second point is actually linked to the first one, and it is abstaining from developing and manufacturing the ballistic missiles which were used to shell Saudi cities and which threaten the region’s countries. The third point is ending and withdrawing from its military operations in the region, in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other countries.
Trump’s policy in the region has advanced forward with blowing the whistle to signal the implementation of the important sanctions, and we must expect more tension but with some hope followed by negotiations and an agreement, and perhaps peace.
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.