By: Sina Azodi
Is It Meant to Start a War?
Much indicates that the likely murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi will be transformative for Saudi-US relations. But whether it will affect the one issue where Saudi pressure on the United States was the greatest – Iran – is unclear. The Iran strategy favoured by Saudi Arabia and the Netanyahu government in Israel, and eagerly adopted by the White House, will likely lead to a military confrontation, regardless of whether its assumptions about the status of Iran’s economy and political survivability are true or not.
The Trump administration’s pressure strategy on Iran assumes that the Islamic Republic is standing on its last leg. The White House believes a gentle nudge will cause its collapse in a few months. This is a flawed assumption – one which makes the policy immensely risky for a simple reason: what if President Donald Trump and the Saudi Crown Prince are wrong? What if the Iranian theocracy survives, albeit far angrier and hostile than it was before? And what if the assumption is correct? Will the clerical rulers sit quietly as the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel orchestrate their demise? History is replete with examples where pressure triggered conflict – despite that the underlying assumption has been correct.
If Trump’s bet proves wrong and the theocracy in Tehran shows itself too resilient, the United States will find itself in a vulnerable position. Trump’s complete isolation at the UN General Assembly this year was nothing short of astounding – yet, that may become the new normal. In the process, the United States will incentivize other countries to develop alternative financial transaction systems in order to protect themselves from what increasingly will be viewed as illegal US financial sanctions. This will likely weaken the dollar and diminish America’s ability to use the existing financial system as an instrument of its own national power.
Moreover, Iran will likely be far more hostile and determined to counter US influence in the Middle East as a result of the Trump administration’s escalation of tensions and its efforts to unseat the theocracy in Tehran. Already, a senior Iranian official said recently that Trump’s pressure has undermined moderates in Tehran who advocate for diplomacy between Iran and the West and a reduction of tensions. On the other hand, hardliners in charge of Iran’s policies in Syria and Yemen have benefitted from Trump’s belligerence. “The sense is that engagement has not paid off for Iran [as a result of Trump’s sabotage of the Iran Nuclear Deal],” the Iranian official explained, “Iran’s military engagement in the region, however, has paid dividends to Iran’s security.”
Read More: Europe’s Iran plan
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