When Trump stirs up Iran to be a rogue state

US President did not certify the Iran Deal and announced new sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Congress will have the last say. In his attempt to sabotage Tehran’s growing geopolitical weight in the region, Trump is fuelling the Middle Eastern turmoil: he plays into the hands of the Iranian hawks, and fosters the Saudi-Iranian rivalry.

Donald Trump. Reuters/Joshua Roberts
Donald Trump. Reuters/Joshua Roberts

"Iran is a fanatical regime, we will place sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps " US president Donald Trump is now ready to further diverge from the US foreign policy blueprint followed by Barack Obama. His next move? Undermining both the Iran Deal and the policy of dialogue with Tehran. In fact, Trump denied certification of the agreement signed on July 14th, 2015, between the P5 + 1 countries [the members of the UN Security Council plus Germany], the EU and Iran on the suspension of the sanctions imposed by the EU and the UN against the Islamic Republic, in, exchange for Tehran’s commitment to limit the nuclear program. 

Now the ball will go in the Congress’ court. The latter will have to choose between two options: “keep or kill.” In 60 days, America could either reinstate the sanctions against Iran, or discard them once and for all.  

What the White House occupant is doing is a much dangerous operation. Stirring up Iran to be once again a “rogue state” within a hypothetical “Evil axes,” to use G.W. Bush’s words, would seriously upset the global and regional balance, and open a new front, thus benefitting the Iranian ultra-conservative factions. However, in Trump’s logic, pursuing the normalization of the Tehran-Washington relations promoted by the Obama administration, would be a “grand bargain” for Iran only. It would increase Iran’s geopolitical weight in the Middle East, while vexing Israel and Saudi Arabia: the region’s historical US ally and IRI arch enemies. 

The nuclear agreement was “one of the most incompetently drawn deals I've ever seen...we got nothing,” stated the US president, “an embarrassment to the US.” However, facts on the ground so far have demonstrated the opposite. According to the EU the Iran deal “is working: Iran's delivery on its commitments has been certified by the International Atomic Energy Agency eight times” [here the full text of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action]. Recent data provided by the British embassy in Washington further validate the EU’s stand. While before the the Iran Deal the IRI had 19 thousand working centrifuges and 8 thousand kg of low-level enriched uranium, sice the signing of the 2015 agreement Tehran has cut down its stock of uranium by 95% and disabled 2/3 of the centrifuges [more data here.] 

However, Trump is still claiming that Iran “got a path to nuclear weapons very quickly.” With this rhetoric the American president aims at barring the economic and strategic benefits that the Islamic Republic obtained through this new phase of dialogue with the West and its return to the international arena. Moreover, with his impelling decertification,  he urges Tehran and EU to return to the negotiating table.

This shift to the paradigm à la Trump not only debunks Obama’s strategy of détente but it also shatters the diplomatic policy that sustained the IRI’s moderate and pragmatic factions embodied by Iranian president Hassan Rouhani and foreign affairs minister Javad Zarif, the Iran Deal’s poster-man. By playing the Great Satan, Trump plays in the hands of the Iranian hawks, who are pressuring the government to restore a pre-Deal nuclear program. Moreover, the American president’s stance fuels the narrative of the so-called “anti-imperialism axis,” that involves and endorses Assad’s regime in Syria and Hezbollah’s power in Lebanon. Thus, the dispute between Tehran and Washington appears to many as originating from Iran’s attempt to contain American expansionism in the Middle East. It is likely that this tension will raise to global scale. The Kremlin has already warned Washington: in case the US takes a step back from the Iran Deal, there will certainly be “negative consequences.” 

Above all, throught the construction of the Iranian “enemy,” Trump ignites the acrimony between Ryadh and Tehran, by fostering a discourse that focusses on the clash of identities and the religious antagonism, Sunni vs Shia. Unsurprisingly, last May while the Iranians were voting for their new president, the American president flew to Saudi Arabia where expressed his support to the Saudi leaders, and exhorted to attack Iran, responsible of fuelling ”the fires of sectarian conflict and terrorism.” However, the only victims of this political strategies and narratives are first and foremost the civilian populations, devastated by the several proxy wars that are still plaguing the Middle East from Syria to Yemen. 

Yet, sabotaging the Iran Deal also entails nipping in the bud the first attempts of cooperation in the field of counter-terrorism to face the ISIS threat. Obsessed by the re-definition of the Middle East balance of power, Trump seems ready to move towards this outcome, as long as Iran is deprived of his status of crucial and inescapable geopolitical actor in the region.

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