Renewed US-Iran Rivalries

Photo source: Arab News

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe UpFront

Political rivalries, between the US and Iran, have been inflamed, yet again, after Donald Trump, in 2015, withdrew from 2015 nuclear agreement, and reinstated sanctions on the petrochemical industry, in the Persian Gulf, quite recently. 

As a back clash, Iran calls this move as a form of ‘economic terrorism.’ In Iranian markets, inflation has been soaring lately, due to Trump's sanctions, which has risen upto fifty percent. The oil exports have been slashed drastically, and there are also sanctions on medicines, with the result.

For a while, Iran has maintained that its nuclear program is peaceful, as international investigators have found several times, when the deal was drafted, that the country was in compliance with the agreement. But, this perspective is falling upon deaf American ears, as per Iranians, or perhaps, America wants to isolate them, for an antipathy of the past.

During May 2019, Iran attacked oil tankers at a United Arab Emirates port and it was highly condemned by the United States. Americans, enraged by the threat, during May 2019, had announced that it would rush aircraft carriers and other assets in the region. In fact, Iran has chosen to ‘step back and recalculate’, for a likely attack at the United States, in The Persian Gulf. However, a top commander in the American forces in the Middle East said that it would be too early to speculate, about a possible Iranian attack that could prove as any real trouble, to the United States. He was reluctant, in getting any additional deployments, against Iranian missiles, or other weapons.

In an interview, with three reporters, including one from Associated Press, General Frank McKenzie, involved in leading America’s war in Afghanistan and Iraq, said: ‘I don’t believe that the threat has diminished. The threat is very real. Our country is showing enough force to establish deterrence without needlessly provoking its longtime adversary.”

In the past, Iran also intended to target US troops in Syria, and even used drones against Americans in a key waterway near Yemen. There were also speculations that Iran put cruise missile on ships, heightening fears, that it may attack US Navy vessels with them.

However, he also believes, at the same time, that Iran had been planning some sort of attack on U.S forces, in Iraq. According to inputs received by him, Iran was also in a high state of willingness, with its ships, submarines, the surface to air missiles, and drone aircraft, some couple of months ago, this year. Four oil tankers were damaged in May near the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway, patrolled by Iranian navy, through which the world’s liquefied natural gas and almost 20 per cent of the world’s oil production flows. While two tankers belonged to Saudi Arabia, one belonged to the United Arab Emirates, both enemies of Iran. But, the war games don’t actually stop here. Iran backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, launched an attack on a Saudi pipeline, a few days after their oil tanker was damaged. At that time, Iran had told its military leaders to prepare for war.

United Nations ambassadors from the Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Norway told UN Security Council Members, that many defence analysts and investigators believed that attacks were led by foreign agencies, using divers on speed boats, who planned mines on the vessels, but they interestingly didn’t blame Iran.

In fact, in early May 2019, US National Security Advisor John Bolton announced that the US was deploying an aircraft carrier, some bomber planes, and anti-missile batteries near the Persian Gulf, in response to a number of provocations from Iran. In April 2019 itself, US Navy fighter jets were seen hovering the waters of northern Arabian Sea, giving a strong signal to Iran, that US’s attempt for global reach, by involving in political supremacies had also come near Iran’s backyard.

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, having a capacity to hold seventy aircrafts, was seen streaming near the waters of Oman, about 200 miles from Iran’s southern coastline. But, it had not entered the Persian Gulf. Admiral John F.G. Wade, commander of the Lincoln strike group, said, that Iran’s forces have adhered to international standards of interaction, with his ships, and his group.

He went to comment: ‘Since we have been operating in the region, we have had several interactions with the Iranians. To this point, all have been safe and professional — meaning, the Iranians have done nothing to impede our manoeuvrability or acted in a way which required us to take defensive measures.'

The United States has put sanctions on Iranian petrochemical industry, and its thirty-nine subsidiaries, because these entities are considered by the US, as lifelines for Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the US views as a terrorist organisation. IRGC, since its inception, has played a role in the economy, and it also has a large military force, even having foreign interests, in places such as Syria and Yemen. But the sanctions against them mean that Iran will badly lose its vital oil exports. According to past Bloomberg data, Iran’s oil shipment is to tumble to 750,000 barrels a day, in April, compared with 1.5 million in October.

However, Iran has vowed to trade oil through ‘unconventional and secretive means’, in order to divert from US sanctions. They would also not disclose sale figures until sanctions are lifted. As per reports from Al-Jazeera, Iranian investors, and entrepreneurs are turning up to small-scale businesses, such as opening coffee outlets, so that they can churn up profit.

In an interview, Minister for Oil, Zanganeh has said that the US has reached ‘an evil maturity’ by using ‘smart sanctions’, but he also believes that this act may eventually tighten their noose. Statements, such as these, have come because several officials in Tehran believe that the US isn’t respecting the dialogue measures, as both countries have various scores to settle, politically. Iran thinks that Trump is not serious about talks anymore, and the country feels isolated, despite assurances for talks.

The U.S, already, has announced plans to send 900 additional troops, to the Middle East, and will extend the stay of 600 more, as tens of thousands of others, also are on the ground, across the region. As a counter reaction, Iran's influential Revolutionary Guard believes that they are not afraid of American aggression, and their strategic moves, in their country’s precincts, for a possible war with the U.S.

Iranian officials have further asserted that America's military headcount has not mounted up, under the current scenario. ‘The enemy is not more powerful than before,’ the Guard spokesman, Gen. Ramazan Sharif, said, in late May. Iran, also believes, that the current policy, of pressuring up nations in the region, is not a fitting policy anymore.

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