News Analysis |
Amid the brewing crisis in the Middle East, the decades-long US-Iranian rivalry continues with full verve. The US legislators and the Trump Administration are on the same page in browbeating Tehran.
The 100-member Senate approved sanctions over Iran’s ballistic missiles and its alleged continuation of support for terrorism. The bill which included sanctions on Moscow too (Iran’s ally) was passed with a resounding majority of 98-2.
“You (the United States) and your agents are the sources of instability in the Middle East… who created Islamic State? America… America’s claim of fighting against Islamic State is a lie”
– Ali Khamenei
While the executive may raise objections on the move against Moscow, it will not resist twisting Iran. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, while attending a hearing of the State Department Budget, said that the Iran policy is under review and includes regime change as well.
While answering a question on Iran’s totalitarianism, Tillerson’s was very unequivocal in his thoughts about Iran.
“Well, our Iranian policy is under development. It’s not yet been delivered to the president, but I would tell you that we certainly recognize Iran’s continued destabilizing presence in the region, their payment of foreign fighters, their export of militia forces in Syria, in Iraq, in Yemen, their support for Hezbollah. And we are taking action to respond to Iran’s hegemony. Additional sanctions actions have been put in place against individuals and others.”
Much to the chagrin of the US and its allies, Iran is supporting the Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah’s struggle, Iraq, and the Houthis in Yemen. Iran’s support for these groups is seen as a destabilizing influence on the region.
“We and our allies must counter Iran’s aspirations of hegemony in the region,” Tillerson said. The process, it must stress, is already in motion after the Riyadh Summit where President Trump castigated Iran and called upon everyone to cut it to size. In an escalator move, Arab countries severed diplomatic ties with Qatar over its alleged support for terrorism and growing ties with Tehran.
Rep. Ted Poe asked Tillerson about U.S. policy towards Iran, including whether the U.S. government would sanction the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and whether the U.S. supported “a philosophy of regime change.”
“Do we support a philosophy of regime change, peaceful regime change? There are Iranians in exile all over the world. Some are here. And then there’s Iranians in Iran who don’t support the totalitarian state. So is the U.S. position to leave things as they are or set up a peaceful long-term regime change?” asked Poe.
“The U.S. Senate’s move is unquestionably in breach of both the spirit and the letter of the nuclear deal.”
– Ali Akbar Velayati
Tillerson replied in the affirmative. “As you know, we have designated the Quds [Force]. Our policy towards Iran is to push back on this hegemony, contain their ability to develop obviously nuclear weapons, and to work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government. Those elements are there, certainly as we know,” he replied, becoming the first official to talk about regime change in the region.
The Iranian government was quick to denounce Tillerson’s remarks. On Thursday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi called Tillerson’s comments “interventionist, in gross violation of the compelling rules of international law, unacceptable, and strongly condemned.”
“Since the 1950s, the United States tried to meddle in Iranian affairs by different strategies such as coup d’état, regime change, and military intervention,” said Qasemi. He was alluding to CIA’s Operation Ajax which overthrows Muhammad Mossadegh way back in 1953.
Tehran also slammed the new sanctions that the Senate ratified. “The U.S. Senate’s move is unquestionably in breach of both the spirit and the letter of the nuclear deal,” Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, was reported by media as saying on Friday.
No chance of thaw?
Tensions have once again escalated after the brazen attacks on the Iranian parliament and the tomb of the revered Ayatollah Khomenei. Trump’s piecemeal condemnation of the ISIS-perpetrated attack provoked the sentiments of Iranians.Tehran blamed the US and its ally in Saudi Arabia for stoking violence in the region.
The visible tilt towards the Kingdom and utter rejection of Iran are in-line with US interests in the region, which is based on standing by Israel. Iran will be under the woods, owing to it being the main challenger to Israel.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei berated the US and its dualism earlier this week. “You (the United States) and your agents are the sources of instability in the Middle East… who created Islamic State? America… America’s claim of fighting against Islamic State is a lie,” he said. He further went on to say that Iran does not want to improve relations with the US.
Khamenei’s hardline approach towards the US have had many buyers in the past and they are increasing by the day. The US is seemingly ignoring the common enemy in ISIS. Showing cognizance to this is important if the US is actually gunning for the ISIS. But the vociferous anti-Iran rhetoric from the US and its allies has strengthened the case of hardliners in Iran.
The Middle East saga will fester further. The visible tilt towards the Kingdom and utter rejection of Iran are in-line with US interests in the region, which is based on standing by Israel. Iran will be under the woods, owing to it being the main challenger to Israel.