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The Trump administration has consistently reiterated that the aim of exerting maximum pressure on Iran’s regime is to change its nuclear ambition and regional malign behavior. However, President Trump has said he expects Tehran to come back to the negotiation table and to make a good deal. He even gave the green light to the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe to mediate and persuade the clerics in Tehran to kickstart the talks with the US. But, the theocracy in Tehran has responded aggressively, attacking oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and shooting down a US Navy drone in international airspace.

President Trump ordered an airstrike on Iran but he later canceled and has decided to respond by imposing sanctions on the Iran Supreme Leader’s office and its diplomatic wing Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Nonetheless, persuading or coercing Iran’s regime to come to the negotiation table does not work at this time.

The JCPOA’s failure to help Iranian people out of poverty resulted in nationwide anti-regime protests in late December 2017 and January 2018 that continue consistently to this day. This uprisings seriously threatened and undermined the regime’s existence.

The JCPOA has failed to restrict Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and provided the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) with billions of dollars to fund its proxies across the region. But today, any negotiations based on Secretary Pompeo’s 12+1 preconditions are perilous to the regime’s existence.

One of the fundamental pillars on which the theocracy in Iran is established is the export of terrorism (regional expansionism and warmongering), which both Arab nations and Israel are suffering from. Indeed, sanctions are undermining the regime’s regional capacities but they will not end it.

Now, if the missile program and the regional interventions of the IRGC were restricted, as Trump administration aims to do, the theocracy in Tehran would lose all its ideological, political and practical leverage over its repressive forces and proxies both inside and outside of Iran.

For a domestically loathed regime, showing such weakness carries a high risk at home. Thus, one of the following four scenarios are probable:

First, the regime will continue its attacks on oil tankers and other similar targets in order to disrupt the oil market and pressure Western economies, hoping that the proponents of the appeasement policy will persuade President Trump to abandon his campaign of maximum pressure. In this regard, Iran’s presidential advisor Hesameddin Ashena has tweeted: “Americans should know, war and sanctions are two sides of the same coin. If you do not want war ease/end sanctions.”

Second, Tehran follows a strategy of waiting out President Trump until the 2020 presidential election in the US, hedging on the fact that he would not get re-elected. For possible popular uprising inside the country during this period, the IRGC’s repressive forces still have enough leverage and means to crush dissent among Iranian people.

Third, Tehran negotiates with the US-based on changing its nature from a regime like Hitler’s, which occupied its neighbors and aimed for global expansion, to one like Franco’s in Spain, which is notoriously known for oppressing its own people. Under this perspective, the theocracy will need a security guarantee from abroad, which no country can provide considering the regime’s international isolation today.

Fourth, moving toward nuclear bombs, which will definitely provoke a military response from the US and its Arab-European allies.

As President Trump wishes to solve the Iran crisis before the 2020 US presidential election, neither of these four perspectives are in his favor. Hence, if President Trump seeks to coerce clerics to come back to the negotiation table, they must seriously be challenged in the streets of Tehran.

During an interview with the CBS, US Vice President Mike Pence described the Trump administration’s objective as standing with the Iranian people. “What we want to do is stand with Iranian people, thousands gathered outside the White House,” he said referring to a rally held by the Iranian opposition coalition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) on Friday 21 June.

In this regard, the US should back opponents of the regime synchronized with targeting Tehran’s repressive forces. The US Arab allies such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE have enough capacity to play a role regarding this new idea.

President Trump also can do so by referring Iran’s egregious human rights dossier to the UN Security Council, a move none of its European allies would or want to oppose publicly. Such a measure will act as a catalyst for the ongoing popular protests against the regime across the country.

This withstanding, an important part missing in President Trump’s current policy towards Iran is that Tehran’s propaganda machine, including state-run TV networks, e.g. Press TV, and Tehran’s apologists abroad, such as the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), have yet to be targeted with punitive measures.

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